iPhone 6 Release Date, Specs and Features: The Galaxy S5's Biggest Threat
An archive of what we've heard about Apple’s next-generation iPhone 6, including specs, release date rumours, and features
Apple's annual merry-go-round of rumours and speculation seems to start earlier and earlier every generation. Rumours surrounding the iPhone 6 fired up before the iPhone 5S had even been officially announced in September 2013 so that now, even though we are months away, we already have a boatload of information regarding what the successor model might be like.
Emphasis on the might, of course, because as always Apple is wrapped up tighter than a ridiculously tightly wrapped thing, so until it lets the cat out of the bag we can't know anything for sure.
As with previous models, a big chunk of the rumour pie rather optimistically focuses on the idea the iPhone 6 will be bigger than its predecessors, with a larger display.
Apple’s two big changes with the last generation of hardware and software included the 64-bit A7 chipset and the major overhaul of its iOS platform as iOS 7, with a completely new interface and many new features. After these major upheavals, Apple’s expected to settle down into predictable territory again with iOS 8 and an A8 chip which should see improvements, but are not likely to be such major milestones.
Aside from this, there's talk of camera enhancements, solar power, mobile payments, styluses and liquid metal, amongst many other things.
One report from Chinese newspaper Commercial Times reckons Apple will shift upwards of 90 million iPhone 6 units worldwide. If that’s true Foxconn have some serious work to do as it’ll be the biggest iPhone launch of all time.
It all depends when the handset is released though, if it makes its way into pockets by July it will have half a year to sell those 90 million. Then again if it doesn’t come until September, traditionally the time of year Apple unveil them, it will have to sell 90 million in three months.
If any company could do it, Apple can. But that all depends on what it pulls out of the bag – so to read all the latest gossip on the iPhone 6 or iPhone Air as some have taken to calling it, scroll on down.
iPhone 6 Design and Display
The display size is such a crucial point on the subject of what the next iPhone will look like, and at the moment there’s no clear cut conclusion on how big it will actually be. Initially there was a lot of back-and-forth between the idea of smaller iPhone 6, either at the same 4-inch size as the current model, or slightly larger – between 4.5-inches and 4.7-inches, and the idea of a much bigger “phablet” iPhone at 5-inches or more – which means more than one handset at launch.
Chinese analyst Sun Chyang Xu reported the iPhone 6 would arrive both as both a 4.7-inch model and a 5.7-inch version. The Wall Street Journal has also similarly reported that there will be a 4.5-inch model and a larger edition of an unspecified size. Reports from China towards the end of 2013, which cited Foxconn insiders, fit in with Cyang Xu’s predictions of both 4.7-inch and 5.7-inch versions.
South Korean investment firm KDB Daewoo Securities, a company which allegedly has a good track record for this kind of thing, claimed there will be a standard iPhone 6 model with a 4.7-inch or 4.8-inch display at a full HD 1920x1080 pixel resolution, and a larger phablet variant with a 5.5-inch display using a 2K QHD resolution at 2272x1280 pixels. Another report out of China claims to have heard from insider informants that the iPhone 6 will arrive in both 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch variants.
In this latter report, while it is alleged the final design prototypes which have given these measurements use the much-rumoured Sapphire Glass displays, analysts are now claiming the final production models will not use the super-tough screens. It's said Sapphire Displays would be too expensive for mass production.
Supply chain sources are another good, er, source for Apple info. According to Brian White, an analyst with Cantor Fitzgerald who has been keeping tabs on Apple’s component buying habits, a "bigger iPhone" in the works and it has been in development for over a year.
DisplaySearch, another excellent source for accurate predictions about Apple’s forthcoming products, published the following table, detailing the display technology we’ll see inside Apple’s 2014 products.
|Current Product||Display||New Product||Display||Timing|
|iPhone 5||4” 1136×640||iPhone 6||4.7” 1280×720; 5.7” 1920×1080||Q2’14|
|iPad||9.7” 2048×1536||iPad 5||9.7” 2048×1536; portrait mode, slim bezel||Q4’13|
|New iPad||12.9” 2732×2048||2014|
|iPad mini||7.9” XGA||iPad mini 2||7.9” 2048×1536; portrait mode||Q4’13|
|MacBook Air||13.3” 1440×900||MacBook Air (new)||12” 2304×1440; low power||2014|
|Apple TV||55”, 65” 4Kx2K 120Hz LCD||Q3’14|
|iWatch||1.3”/1.63” 320×320 flexible AMOLED||Q4’14|
Tim Cook On Bigger Displays & Phablets
Further complicating matters, in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed the company is not ruling out the possibility of a larger screen iPhone but it has some work to do first. Cook explained the company needed to look into a number of considerations before entering the phablet market.
Cook said, "There are many different parameters to measure a display and we care about all those, because we know that's the window to the software. We want to give our customers what's right in all respects - not just the size but in the resolution, in the clarity, in the contrast, in the reliability.”
Apple clearly wants to nail the the larger sized screens before entering the supersized phablet market. First up for Apple is to work on the technology which will make it possible, what is unclear is how far along this road Apple currently is.
iPhone 6 Could Feature Large Quantum Dot Display
Publication Business Insider is claiming that Apple may begin using a new screen type for the iPhone 6 which will result in a super colourful display. Apple currently has five patents which all relate to Quantum Dot display.
How does the new technology actually work? Quantum dots are nanocrystals which are made out of semiconductors and create “quantum effects.” We know it sounds like something sci-fi, but stick with us, it’ll all make sense soon. These effects create light frequencies which mean colours appear a lot brighter and can be more accurate at displaying true colours than other technologies.
You may have seen the technology in action before aboard the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX tablet. It looked splendid but there were a couple of issues with light-bleed.
Apple is working with the patents it holds to try to stop that. The Apple R&D department is apparently in overdrive readying the technology for a July announcement.
How do we know the technology will be coming so soon? Jason Hartlove, CEO of Nanosys claimed as much in an interview with Forbes. Hartlove said Apple’s designs build on Nanosys tech and it will launch by the middle of 2014.
Another interesting rumour – this one from South Korea – claims the next iPhone will do away with bezels. According to a report in the Korea Herald, Apple is now testing bezel-less iPhone 6 prototypes. This ties in with similar claims from last year, which suggested Apple was working on handsets with "larger displays with glass that curves downward at the edges,” according to Apple Insider.
As a design choice it make a lot of sense. Apple could increase the size of the display without making the overall chassis of the handset that much bigger, just as Samsung did with the Galaxy S4 and Note 3. And then there’s the obvious parity between this move on the iPhone and on 2013’s iPad Air.
Apple already has smart touch screen technology, whereby the display can tell which finger is active and which is scrolling. We saw this on the iPad Air, so it’s likely to feature aboard the iPhone 6 – or, Air – should Apple go ahead with the bezel-free design.
iPhone 6 Front Panel Emerges
An alleged front panel display for the long awaited iPhone 6 has appeared online. The leak suggests Apple fans will be getting the screen upgrade we have been hearing rumours of for a long time. The photo below shows a front panel for the iPhone 4, iPhone 5 and now the iPhone 6 on the right.
There are no side bezels which corresponds with previous rumours, while the top and bottom bezels are much thinner than previous handsets. The panel in the photo could potentially only hold a 4.3-inch display, however, which is a lot smaller than other rumours have suggested.
There’s no word from Apple on whether this front panel really is the iPhone 6, which isn't exactly surprising, but it could be a leaked prototype or a working progress. Then there’s the chance the iPhone 6 will come in two different models much like the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C - rumours have certainly suggested as much. Potentially one could come with a bigger display and one with a smaller display to try to straddle the screen-size divide.
Don’t take it on face value though, there’s still the chance this is just a fake.
Patent Pending: Quantum Dot, Curved Screens and Sapphire Glass
Other reports concern patents Apple has filed. It seems the company is currently playing with a few of interesting display patents which may have ramifications for the future iPhone 6. The Cupertino-based iPhone giant has an application in place for "quantum dot-enhanced displays" which would allegedly improve colour reproduction, making it more accurate and natural.
Intriguingly, this technology uses "components that can be smaller even than biological viruses to fine-tune emitted light," according to Techcrunch. Apparently such display tech is also cheaper and easier to mass produce in a range of sizes.
A source reportedly told Bloomberg that Apple is working on two curved handsets with larger screens, with Apple subsequently filing a patent for a 'curved touch sensor'. Apple's patent suggests it would take a slightly different approach to the technology, placing the different components onto a flat surface before heating and curving it as a single entity.
Reports also indicate Apple has bought a number of furnaces to make 5-inch Sapphire Crystal displays. According to 9to5Mac, Apple bought the equipment from GT Advanced which allows the company to make 100 to 200 million 5-inch displays. The documents explaining the plans claim the two companies will work together to create bigger displays.
The machines the company has purchased meet high-quality standards and are built to produce display-grade components unlike the small pieces of sapphire used in home buttons and cameras.
The iPhone 5s' home button is constructed from sapphire. But making a display from the material is something else entirely, which begs the question: how many iPhones could Apple build with these machines?
GT Advanced has got 518 units already with another 420 machines on order which need to be assembled. Those 518 units could produce between 103 and 116 million displays per year – so more than enough, it would seem.
Your Ass Is (Sapphire) Glass
According to a new report from Forbes the iPhone 6 will see Apple no longer using Corning's Gorilla Glass and instead fully embracing Sapphire Glass technology.
The report cites an earnings report from GT Advanced, the company Apple is known to be in cahoots with over its Sapphire TouchID Home key and camera lens.
It's well established that these components will continue to be using Sapphire glass for the iPhone 6, but what's been the subject of much speculation is whether or not the entire display will use it too. The main issue here is one of expense, Forbes says Sapphire panels cost around three-to-four times the price of Gorilla Glass (which itself costs about $3 per panel). Some reports have outright said it's too expensive and Apple won't use it in full production, even though it's reportedly appeared on design prototypes.
Writing for Forbes, Mark Rogowsky claims to have analysed GT Advanced's report, specifically the company's projected estimates for the second half of 2014, and he calculates GT could produce between 50 million and 100 million Sapphire panels for Apple this year to achieve those expected revenues. In other words, he seems to believe Apple is dropping around $500-$700 million into GT for Sapphire. GT also estimates it will hit $1 billion revenue in 2015.
"This kind of volume can't be for an iWatch," says Rogowsky. "There is only one product that Apple - and GT - can get that jind of confidence around today. And that product is the iPhone."
Corning Exec Explains Pitfalls of Sapphire
Corning, the company behind the Gorilla Glass found on older iPhones, has spoken out on the disadvantages of Apple’s other rumoured display technology - Sapphire Glass. It’s hardly surprising Corning isn't a fan of the competing tech being used on the iPhone 6 display, but the company made some interesting points against Sapphire Glass.
The quotes are from Corning Glass executive Tony Tripeny, who spoke at the Morgan Stanley Technology Media and Telecom Conference.
Tripeny claimed Sapphire Glass is 10 times more expensive than Gorilla Glass which will likely shoot the price of the iPhone 6 through the roof. According to Tripeny it also weighs 1.6 times as much as Corning’s Gorilla Glass and uses 100 times the amount of energy - although it isn't clear if this is energy used in its production or to actually power the display. If it's the latter it’d eat through your iPhone battery in no time.
He also claims the product is not environmentally friendly. None of this is confirmed, it’s all from quotes from a competitor’s executive but its how Corning publically feels about the rival product. Tripeny did give Sapphire one thing though, saying that the product is extremely tough, before adding that Gorilla Glass is, in his view, definitely better.
Corning claims that under testing Gorilla Glass can withstand 2.5 times the pressure of sapphire. Don’t believe it? Then check out this video courtesy of Corning.
Reports also suggest Apple could be working on extra-sensitive touchscreens with the ability to detect pressure as well as regular capacitive touch.
The patent in question, titled "Touch-sensitive button with two levels," describes technology Apple has invented that allows the touchscreen to detect different amounts of pressure exerted upon it.
Applications—and iOS—built to take advantage of this pressure sensitive touch screen could then start executing commands based on how hard a person is touching the screen. One example of this could be a heavy touch, which generates a lot of pressure, could tell an app or button to bring up an advanced set of features or menus, while lighter touches on the same button could have it display fewer or less complex feature sets or menus.
Games could take the pressure sensitive touch screen even further. Imagine playing a first person shooter on your iPhone. Light, normal taps from your finger would let you shoot bullets from your revolver, while harder, more pressure-intensive taps would automatically switch you to —and fire—your grenade launcher.
In short, a pressure sensitive touch screen could solve the limited screen real-estate problem UI developers have with working on four-inch smartphone screens. If you need fewer buttons because the existing ones can have dual functions based on how hard the user touches them, you’ll have more space on the screen for displaying what really matters—the content of the app, be it 3D levels in a video game or the canvas in a painting application.
iPhone 6 Hardware
Processor: A8 Chipset
According to DigiTimes, Apple has recruited three chip production companies to build its next-gen A8 processor. Amkor Technology, STATS ChipPAC and Advanced Semiconductor Engineering have allegedly all been drafted in for processor "packaging" processes.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is also said to be involved in the process. The report states that TSMC will "ramp up" A8 20 nanometre chip production by Q2 2014 aiming for a June launch for the handset at the earliest. Another report claims Apple has now completely ditched Samsung in favour of TSMC. Accoridng to G For Games, TSMC will now undertake production of Apple’s 20nm A8 chipset for the iPhone 6 – and that same chipset will presumably be used inside Apple’s next-generation iPads as well.
“The reason why Samsung is reportedly out of the race is because the A8 CPU is expected to be built using 20nm manufacturing process, and apparently Samsung is facing low yield production issues with the chip. On the other hand, TSMC has supposedly been able to meet Apple’s demands, and chances are that the aforementioned giant will handle all the production,” said the report.
It added: “Samsung might’ve lost this one, but whether or not the Korean giant will be able to strike a deal with Apple once the “next-next-gen” A9 processor enters production remains to be seen. The SoC will most likely be developed using 16nm / 14nm technology, and Sammy already has some experience in the 14nm scene.”
D, D, D, D...DRAM?
With the iPhone 6, Apple will be upgrading its chipset to a brand new A8 offering. One report is claiming the A8 will be attempting to bring it closer to being a “system-on-a-chip” (SoC). Currently, the iPhone 5s holds the A7 chipset which includes the CPU, GPU, cache, image processor and TouchID features all on one chipset - there is a lot currently on the chip, but it isn't a complete SoC compared to rival offerings.
Other features such as the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass processing are dealt with on the A7's companion chip, the M7 motion coprocessor andthe DRAM is separate. One report is claiming, however, that Apple will integrate the DRAM into the chipset on the A8. That doesn’t mean there won’t be an M8 motion coprocessor but it’s a step towards the full system being on one chip.
Other sources claim the two new iPhone handsets will be available in the usual 16GB, 32GB and 64GB variants, plus a 128GB beast for those with lots of stuff to store. The battery is tipped to be rated at 1,800mAh while a 64-bit Apple A8 processor will use 2GB of RAM.
iPhone 6 Features: Improved Wi-Fi, Biometric Scanners, Mobile Payments And More
According to Timothy Arcuri, an analyst from US firm Cowen and Compan,y the iPhone 6 will feature improved Wi-Fi 802.11ac.
Arcuri also commented on Apple’s broader feature set, saying that updates to iOS (iOS 8) are likely to focus on things like iBeacon, Touch ID, and Passbook. Arcuri added that 2013’s iPhone 5S was just the start – or, put another way: the jumping board for this year’s products. In 2014/15 the company will focus more and more on mobile payments, leveraging services like TouchID, iBeacons and the currently (pretty useless) Passbook application.
Apple brought in a number of features with the iPhone 5S. One of these included the Touch ID fingerprint scanner which has received mixed reviews. In our review we said the fingerprint scanner works well but offers little benefit at present. It looks like Apple will be taking this to the next level for the iPhone 6 though by building in a facial recognition feature. Apple has secured a patent which uses facial recognition for its devices and it’s likely to be deployed inside the company's next-gen iPhones.
Apple Takes On PayPal and Google Wallet
Apple CEO Tim Cook has added more fuel to the fire suggesting micro payments will soon be adopted by the company. Cook said, "The mobile payments area in general is one that we've been intrigued with. It was one of the thoughts behind Touch ID."
Cook also commented on how Touch ID payments have proven popular for products such as books, movies and music. He said, “there is a lot of opportunity” to expand the system to physical shopping. We’ve been hearing whispers of Apple creating a service to rival that of PayPal and Google Wallet but this is the first time it has come from the CEO’s mouth. Would you be interested in a service provided by Apple?
Previously, word came via the Wall Street Journal which says the company is aiming to leverage the "hundreds of millions of credit cards on file through its iTunes store." The report said Apple's iTunes chief, Eddy Cue, held a meeting with unnamed industry executives to discuss possible payment infrastructure for "physical goods and services" using Apple devices. The word comes from WSJ's anonymous "people familiar with the situation."
Three other unnamed sources also revealed that Apple has put Jennifer Bailey, the company's online store executive, in charge of the development of this new payment model. Apple has not commented on the rumours.
How Apple will introduce a service isn't clear at present, although it's long been thought it will expand the TouchID fingerprint scanner functionality into a wider range of functions including mobile payment.
While mobile payments from other companies are yet to signficantly take off, it's conventionally been thought that such services would do so via NFC tech, however, Apple has actively steered clear of NFC, so it will be interesting to see what other methods it could put in place.
iPhone 6 Camera: Building On From The iPhone 5s
China Post reports that it has heard from Nomura Security, a Chinese firm, that Apple will still use the existing 8-megapixel iSight sensor present in the iPhone 5S but will make further tweaks to improve imaging quality. One such change is said to be the addition of optical image stabilisation (OIS).
Adding further legitimacy to the claims, the US Patent & Trademark Office has received a patent application from Apple for an OIS setup and improved autofocus technology. This will include "voice coil motor actuators" for allowing the lens to adjust with movement. The move is a believable one, as Apple has previously emphasised its reluctance to upscale the megapixel count, instead insisting it will concentrate on tweaking its existing hardware.
Apple has filed for a patent with the US Patents office which details a new camera stabilization mechanism which is likely to make its way into the iPhone 6. The “VCM OIS actuator module” will act to reduce image blurriness and will help improve the autofocus speed on the iPhone’s camera.
The new VCM OIS system is designed to compensate for hand movement when taking a photo or video.
This new design also has the lens and image sensor attached together which should make manufacturing the cameras a simpler process.
Some are arguing the iPhone is falling behind other competitor’s flagship devices in terms of image quality as the cameras are 8MP compared to 20MP cameras on the Sony Xperia Z1 and Nokia Lumia 1520. Maybe so. But as the iPhone 5s proved with its exceptionally good imaging capabilities: megapixels aren't everything.
After testing the iPhone 5s' camera out and seeing what it was capable of, we're dying to see how the setup will be improved aboard the iPhone 6. Could we also see full HD slow-motion video added? You bet your ass we could.
Apple's latest intriguing patent suggests it may be prepping Lytro-like capabilities for the iPhone 6's camera.
If you're not aware of Lytro, it's a type of camera which allows you to capture an image and then dynamically select (and re-select) a focal point at a later date using something called "plenoptic" technology. The technology means photography can be far more of a "fire and forget" affair.
Apple's patent details a "digital camera including refocusable imaging mode adaptor", according to AppleInsider. While no specific mention has been made of the iPhone 6, Apple will need to continue to enhance its camera technology in order to remain competetive.
Previously, Apple has outlined that it would rather tweak its 8-megapixel iSight hardware for better performance than simply up the megapixel count, and it's an approach which has been met with plenty of critical acclaim for the iPhone 5S's impressive imaging capabilities.
According to Techradar, the patent "even makes reference to the Lytro camera as prior art but adds that certain adjustments can be made in the quality of picture."
It's known that before Steve Jobs died he met with Lytro's founder to discuss a partnetship and this patent was filed in September 2011, just before Jobs' death. Numerous reports indicate many of Apple's products released since Jobs passed away have been developed in accordance to roadmaps he already laid out and it's feasible the iPhone 6, complete with a Lytro-like camera, could be part of his posthumous plan.
iPhone 6 Release Date
Multiple reports have indicated Apple’s iPhone 6 will arrive in June 2014, while others suggest the company will stick to its annual September launch. The subject of multiple handsets also throws a spanner in the works. While Apple launched the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C side-by-side at the same event, some reports are saying a launch will be staggered.
Chinese analyst Sun Chyang Xu claims the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 will appear in June while a 5.7-inch phablet variant will follow later, although it isn’t specified exactly when. Other reports have suggested both models will appear in September. A report from KDB Daewoo Securities pegged two iPhone models for arrival in Q2 or Q3.