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iPhone 6 rumor rollup for the week ending Sept. 20

John Cox | Sept. 23, 2013
Sapphire gleaming, Big Things, solar secrets, NFC angst.

With the official announcement and, today, release of iPhone 5S and 5C, the iOSphere returns to its regular iPhone 6 rumor nomenclature. But things would be simpler if Apple simply used "iPhone 2014."

This week, there were rumors of new and bigger uses for those cool sapphire glass covers; revelations about the Biggest Things fans really, really want in the next iPhone (and you, too, will be underwhelmed by them); scifi rumoring about solar charging that cross-our-heart-and-hope-to-die actually works; and still more angst on the Great Apple Failure to support NFC-based mobile payments.

You read it here second.

"If they don't put NFC in an iPhone soon, they risk being a technology laggard."~ Mark Hung, analyst, Gartner (quoted in the Wall Street Journal's Digits blog), despite the facts that 1) Hung earlier said there are less than 100,000 NFC readers being used in the U.S., and 2) there's no sign of an imminent mobile payments tsunami that will leave laggardly Apple under water.

iPhone 6 will have a sapphire touchscreen cover

The advent of the iPhone 5S home button with its "sapphire glass" cover, and a recently announced Apple patent, have the iOSphere agog about a really big sapphire cover one covering the display of the, yes, 2014 iPhone, now generally called iPhone 6.

Sapphire glass is actually corundum, a crystalline form of aluminum oxide. Apple first used the super tough, and super costly, transparent material for the iPhone 5 lens cover. It now covers the 5S integrated home button with Touch ID fingerprint scanner.

The juxtaposition and extrapolation of unrelated events was effortlessly achieved by PhonesReview in a post announced that "use of sapphire [may be] expanded further so that it features in the touch screen cover as well as the home button."

The source of this revelation? A three-paragraph post, which PhonesReview graciously calls a "report," at Taiwan-based DigiTimes. Citing "Taiwan-based sapphire makers," DigiTimes claims that "Apple is expected to extend the use of sapphire glass home keys" to its upcoming new iPads and "for making touch screen covers for its new iPhone to be launched in 2014."

The technology basis for PhonesReview speculation is a recently published patent application by Apple, originally filed in March 2013. Information on the patent was reported by PatentlyApple in a post earlier this month. 

Apple's patent is for a technique of laminating sheets of sapphire to both side of the glass layer users in mobile displays. It would create a highly scratch-resistant surface and presumably make the glass less subject to breaking or cracking.

Whether a technology just entering the patent process in 2013 will be ready in 2014 for the next iPhone is very much an open question. The Rollup is skeptical: making the technology work is one thing; making it manufacturable, on a large scale that's affordable and that also achieves quality goals, is another thing entirely.


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