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Rumor Roundup, Episode 1: 'iPhone 5' Home button and more nonsense


Welcome to the inaugural session of TUAW's weekly Rumor Roundup. Anyone who follows Apple-related news long enough soon discovers that an entire cottage industry of "analysts" has sprung up in the company's wake. These guys come out of nowhere claiming to have inside information on what's soon coming out of the secret underground labs beneath Cupertino -- and their predictions are almost invariably wrong. Sometimes laughably so.

Over the years we've swung between reporting these rumors with a straight face, just like many other sites, or not reporting on them at all. The first road leads to embarrassment; I'll never forgive myself for taking DigiTimes seriously on anything, ever. The second road leads to dozens of emails every week from readers confused about why we haven't reported on something that's all over the other sites they read.

That's what this Rumor Roundup is all about. These are the stories we might have let slip through the cracks before, simply because we considered them so packed solid with B.S. that they just weren't worth the effort. Most of the stories that show up in the Rumor Roundup still aren't good for much other than pointing at them and laughing -- and there will be lots of that sort of thing.

On to the rumors. Fire up your B.S. detectors, because this past week has been chock full of the usual mythical suspects (none of which, it must be stressed, have ever come within five time zones of being confirmed to exist): the Apple HDTV, iPad mini, iPhone nano, and the super-thin Liquidmetal T-1000 iPhone Grande with 4-inch holographic Tupac screen.

If you've been paying attention, these are the same nonexistent products that dominated the rumor scene for all of 2011. Here we are in mid-2012, still with no indication that any of these products exist at all. And does it strike anyone else as supremely unimaginative that most of these rumors revolve around size? A smaller iPhone -- no wait, a bigger one! And a smaller iPad! And a great big TV! Yawn.

Rumors of an iPad mini swirl in China (Kotaku)

I love the "swirl" reference in the headline, because it reminds me of a commode -- which is probably where this rumor came from. A Chinese site I guarantee you've never heard of claims that the long-rumored iPad mini will launch in the third quarter of this year, with prices ranging from US$249 to $299.

B.S. detector reading: 9/10. "Leaks" like this from Asian sites are almost always wrong, and this one is made even more unbelievable by the fact that those prices are in the neighborhood of what Apple charges for the mid- and high-end iPod touch models. As for the iPad mini itself, we've heard so many conflicting rumors about this thing that by now the only source you should believe is Tim Cook's hands holding one onstage.

Release of 'iPad mini' from Apple viewed as 'question of when, not if' (AppleInsider)

This has all the hallmarks of a terrible and ultimately worthless rumor. Some analyst you've never heard of from some firm you've also never heard of makes a bold claim without a shred of evidence, and it's one he can easily back out of if it never comes true. Which it won't.

B.S. detector reading: 10/10. This is a classic example of a rumor that manages to say absolutely nothing, but in the most excited tones possible. "Apple might do this! Maybe! Or it might not! I dunno, but either way I get paid, suckers."

Apple job opening hints at continued 3D technology in iOS (9to5 Mac)

A job posting on Apple's site could point to integration of 3D features in a future iPhone. Or not, as 9to5 Mac itself points out.

B.S. detector reading: 6/10. Apple is obviously looking for someone knowledgable in 3D tech, but extrapolating what that means for future products is pretty much impossible. And can't the 3D fad just die already? Please?

Apple working on new power management technology for future Macs (AppleInsider)

Another story sourced from an Apple job posting. This one makes the bold claim that Apple is investigating ways of improving power management and battery life in its Macs.

B.S. detector reading: 0/10. I mean, come on -- imagine the exact opposite scenario. "Apple poaches Flash Player engineers, investigates ways to make its laptops run batteries flat in five minutes."

Apple plots wireless server hubs at Genius Bars for users to temporarily store, sync content for iOS device replacements (9to5 Mac)

According to "sources," Apple is testing ways of mirroring iOS device backups from iCloud onto in-store servers to streamline the process of exchanging faulty devices at Genius Bars. The system reportedly won't go into wide deployment until late 2013.

B.S. detector reading: 5/10. While this does sound like something Apple could plausibly want to implement, the fact that this unnamed source supposedly leaked info from within Apple's strictly guarded citadel is a red flag. So is the deployment date, which is so far off that we could easily forget all about it if this never actually happens.

Apple predicted to discontinue 17-inch MacBook Pro (Mac Rumors)

Some analyst says the 17-inch MacBook Pro isn't selling very well, so Apple's going to give it the axe. Of course, Apple doesn't break down its sales numbers by individual models, so this "analysis" is at best an educated guess. At worst, it's exactly like hundreds of other analyst predictions regarding Apple: completely uneducated, wild-ass speculation.

B.S. detector reading: 10/10. The Apple of the past 10 years only discontinues product lines under two circumstances: when it has something better as a replacement (iPod mini --> iPod nano), or when sales are just tanking hard (Xserve). With product margins as high as those Apple gets from its Macs, sales have to get pretty freaking low before Apple stops making money on them; the Mac Pro is still hanging around even though Apple sells more iPhones in one day than the number of Mac Pros it'll sell in a year.

Apple's 'iTV' to dominate high-end TV market while other vendors are in 'crisis mode' (BGR)

A nonexistent product will dominate an industry Apple's shown no sign of taking seriously? Tell me more! What's your source? A consumer survey and some analysts? Never mind. Move along, nothing to see here, no matter what brand of TV it's on.

B.S. detector reading: 8/10. When even 9to5 Mac is starting to disbelieve the Apple HDTV fairy tale, things aren't looking good for this perennial and worn-out rumor.

Redesigned Liquidmetal iPhone may debut at WWDC in June (BGR)

Another Asian source claims the next iPhone will be redesigned with a Liquidmetal case. If that rumor sounds familiar, it should, because like most of the rumors on this list, it's a re-run.

B.S. detector reading: 8/10. This is a malodorous combination of a sketchy source from South Korea and a rehashed rumor that's already failed to materialize.

Apple's next iPhone launch could be most important in smartphone history (BGR)

An analyst who apparently has no recollection of the year 2007 claims the next iPhone launch will be the most important launch ever. His evidence? Well, he doesn't really have any.

B.S. detector reading: Off scale high. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence; when you don't provide any evidence whatsoever, your credibility deserves an old-fashioned boot to the bum. And that headline might have been the most hyperbolic in smartphone headline history.

Next-Generation iPhone to Use Thinner In-Cell Technology for Multi-Touch Display? (Mac Rumors)

This rumor has it all. Analysts, Asian supply chains, and "occasionally-reliable Digitimes" (sic). If by "occasionally reliable" you mean "hasn't said one accurate thing since early 2011," then sure. Otherwise, the (sic) stands.

B.S. detector reading: Off scale high due to inclusion of Digitimes as a source. Regardless of whether Apple is planning on using this technology or not, the perfect storm of terrible sources makes this story about as easy to swallow as Jurassic fruitcake.

Entry-level 'iPhone nano' again rumored to launch this year (BGR)

China Times cites unnamed sources within the Asian supply chain claiming the long-rumored so-called "iPhone nano" is in production. "No really. This time for sure. We promise."

B.S. detector reading: 10/10. No one has ever come up with a credible form factor or compelling reason why Apple should bother creating this imaginary product. Also, any report citing "unnamed sources within the Asian supply chain" is about as well-sourced as me just asking my greyhound what Apple's up to. "What's that, girl? Apple's building an iPhone shuffle now? Okay, I'll run with it, but if you're wrong again, no steak for a week."

More mockups make the case for a 4-inch iPhone (9to5 Mac)

Reader-supplied mockups "make the case" for Apple changing the iPhone's screen size. Note that we made mockups of our own over a year ago, yet the iPhone's screen is still 3.5 inches. Odd. It's almost like one of the world's best industrial designers isn't paying attention to the Internet and is sticking with his own ideas instead.

B.S. detector reading: 6/10. As we said 14 months ago, Apple may well change the size of the iPhone's display someday. But doing so comes with so many potential pitfalls and disadvantages that the company needs a more compelling reason than "Gee, if only our real-world product looked even half as terrible as all these hastily-Photoshopped mockups."

Chip delays point to next-gen iPhone launch around October (Ars Technica)

Ars Technica is almost always on the more credible end of the Apple news spectrum, and the site doesn't disappoint this time. Citing a report from Qualcomm, a big-name component supplier whose products are actually fully relevant to the iPhone, Ars Technica claims the next iPhone probably won't launch before October due to shortages of Qualcomm's cellular baseband chips. Those are kind of important, because without them there's no Phone in iPhone.

B.S. detector reading: 0/10. I don't doubt Ars' source or the veracity of its report, and the site helpfully notes that Apple was probably aiming for an October launch in the first place. No credible reports have arisen pointing to a midsummer iPhone refresh this year, so a "delay" to October shouldn't surprise anyone.

Rumor: iPhone 5 Home Buttons Appear for Sale (AppleBitch)

In what must constitute the least exciting parts leak all year, subtly different Home buttons have appeared on a Chinese supplier site. Rather than two small tabs jutting out from the central circle, these new Home buttons have a big, rounded rectangle flange around them. Excited yet? No? What if I told you it's for the iPhone 5?!? Still no? Eh, I tried.

B.S. detector reading: 5/10. Who knows what product these buttons are destined for? More to the point, who cares? The only rise this particular rumor got out of me was, "Maybe this is finally the end of those stupid 'Next iPhone won't have a Home button' rumors."

Apple CEO Tim Cook spotted at video game designer Valve's headquarters (AppleInsider)

Supposedly Tim Cook showed up at Valve earlier this week, and that set off a storm of speculation across the Internet. What could it mean? What could it mean?!

B.S. detector reading: 10/10. After hearing the Apple CEO was on their turf, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell and several other employees emailed back and forth trying to figure out who met with Tim Cook. It turns out no one did, because Tim Cook was never at Valve. I don't know who fed that particular line to AppleInsider, but I hope the site now realizes that the Cook is a lie.

That's a full week's worth of the Apple blogosphere's rumor offal. Come back next Monday for more exciting tales of imaginary and often nonsensical products, brought to you from the finest, drunkest analysts that money can buy.

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