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Rumor Roundup: Some screwy, asymmetric assembly required


Most of this week's rumors focused on parts leaks related to the new iPhone that's maybe (probably) getting released next month. We'll get to those later. Let's start with an example of how some credulous writers may find themselves getting screwed -- literally.

Apple could screw over iPhone repair shops with crazy new screw design (BGR), Apple May Be Working On A Top-Secret Screw Design To Lock You Out Of Your Devices Forever (CoM), parade of others

Some random Redditor posted pictures of an alleged asymmetric screw intended for future products that even BGR acknowledged was "of dubious veracity." Personally, I'd have put the odds of this thing's veracity at way, way less than one percent, but did a moment's thought stop the march of speculation?

Of course not. That's why this morning's announcement that the entirety of "Screwgate" was dreamed up by a Swedish design firm, just to see how much rumor mayhem they could cause, is so amusing and disturbing. They made the model, they posted it on Reddit, they waited. Boom. (Obviously, that's a more effective technique than sending it to us and claiming you found it randomly on the Apple Store.)

Cult of Mac's gullibility recap takes the position that their original reporting included "a degree of healthy skepticism" about the likelihood of the renders representing reality; you can check out the initial post and decide for yourself if the scare-the-cows, hide-the-children headline tracks with that assertion.

As to why this didn't make any sense in the first place, forgetting the throwaway Reddit account provenance: Apple's existing "pentalobe" screws on the iPhone and MacBook Pro with Retina Display are more than enough to keep all but the most dedicated of DIY enthusiasts from prying at the case (I say that knowing full well which shelf my pentalobe driver is on). Changing to an even screwier design for the fasteners would have come at a high cost in retrofit and service updates, all for essentially zero tangible benefit to the company.

Nearly a third of consumers say they'd suddenly be interested in a new TV if it came from Apple (AppleInsider)

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster chased after his white whale yet again, this time in the form of a survey. He asked 200 people in the American Midwest if they'd buy a new TV if it had an Apple logo somewhere on it. Around 98 of those 200 people said, "Yes, I would totally buy this completely hypothetical product despite no one ever producing the slightest physical evidence of its existence or rationale for Apple to sell one" (not a direct quote).

29 percent of survey respondents said they'd buy the thing even if they weren't in the market for a new TV in the first place. These impressive percentages dropped sharply as the make-believe price for the mythical product rose; only about 24 of 200 people expressed any interest if the cost were over $1500.

Apple has repeatedly said it doesn't know how to make a budget-priced computer that isn't a clunker, and while the iPhone and iPad's prices compare favorably against their competitors, neither of them are exactly impulse buys. My question is, who are these people who expect Apple to produce a 50-inch HDTV with unparalleled screen quality, built-in storage, apps, access to the App Store, voice-activated interface, and a built-in juicer all for less than $1500?

Nearly 80% Of Americans Would Shun iPad Mini In Favor Of iPhone 5 (Cult of Mac)

CouponCodes4u (sounds legit!) ran a survey significantly broader in scope than Munster's -- nearly 1900 respondents on this one. Brace yourselves, because the results of the survey are (not really) shocking (at all). Given a choice between buying the new iPhone or the still-imaginary iPad mini, a full 80 percent of survey respondents said they'd go for the iPhone.

But why? According to the rumors, the iPad mini is supposed to be the Apple Product of the Year, isn't it? Not so much; 46 percent of people not interested in an iPad mini felt the product was "pointless."

I'm torn on this one. On one hand, this survey almost perfectly echoes my own thinking. I don't see a point to the iPad mini, and it seems Apple would be making a mistake to release a product that would only cannibalize sales of the more expensive iPad Señor. On the other hand, these are survey results from some coupon site I never heard of before, so I can't bring myself to take them too seriously.

I almost want the iPad mini to actually be a real, shipping product now. Not to buy one -- count me among the 46 percent who think it's pointless -- but to see how it would do on the market. It seems like a no-win scenario product to me; if it turns out few people want to buy a cheaper, smaller iPad, then it's a failure. But if a bunch of people buy it instead of the more expensive iPad with its presumably fatter profit margins, then it undermines Apple's profits.

Apple files hint at re-engineered iMac and Mac Pro models, potentially without optical drives (AppleInsider)

The headline hedges a bit, but the first several paragraphs of this AppleInsider piece make it sound fairly confident the next Mac desktop models won't have optical drives, based on code snippets one of its readers found in the Boot Camp Assistant plist file. It's only when you get to nearly the bottom of the article that you'll read this:

"The appearance of new Mac Pro and iMac models in the USB booting support list doesn't definitively mean the models won't have optical drives, as it also lists MacBook and MacBook Pro models that do incorporate an optical drive."

Face, meet palm.

iPhone parts

The number of iPhone parts "leaked" this week made me cringe when I thought of having to address them all one-by-one. First there was a "nano SIM" tray, then measurements of the enclosure, photos of the display shielding, the new battery, the new dock connector, and finally the new logic board.

Thankfully, repair shop iFixYouri drew up a diagram of how all these disparate parts might fit together (via 9to5 Mac), and the leaked parts all seem to line up with the appropriate spots on the leaked logic board. Brian Klug of AnandTech also generated what he calls "the most horrible looking Photoshop document ever and determined that these parts also line up with the leaked cases, right down to the screw holes.

Taken as a whole, these parts seem genuine. In order for them to be faked, and consistent across disparate sources, someone would have had to go to essentially the same amount of trouble involved in creating a working smartphone.

I'm usually quite skeptical of the various rumors out there, because it's so often extremely difficult to separate what seems legitimate from the constant white noise of B.S. Once I see (photos of) physical evidence instead of the usual "he said, she said people familiar with the matter supply chain sources in Asia" nonsense, I get significantly less skeptical.

Based on what we've seen so far, we're probably looking at a new iPhone with a slightly redesigned exterior casing that looks like a rather logical evolution of the iPhone 4/4S design. It has certain design features that harken back to the original iPhone, such as a two-tone and two-material backside. It's thinner than the iPhone 4S, but it's slightly longer in order to contain a larger, 16:9 format screen (aligning with the tea leaves on the software side).

It has a battery of very slightly higher capacity than the iPhone 4S, which probably has more to do with driving a larger display than powering a 4G chipset (multiple tests have shown the new iPad's 4G chipset impacts battery life far less than its power-hogging Retina display). It has a new, smaller Dock connector that may or may not be MagSafe-style and will almost definitely have an adapter for old accessories.

That's it. That's all we "know" about the next iPhone with about a month to go until the purported unveiling date, at least until/unless someone takes a heat gun to that leaked motherboard and finds out what kind of chips it's packing.

Almost as interesting as the parts themselves is the fact that so many of them have leaked out despite Tim Cook's promise to "double down" on secrecy. This year's leaks haven't been as dramatic or salacious as 2010's "iPhone 4 left in a bar" scenario; instead, this has been more like "death by 1000 cuts" in terms of the pace and relative minutiae of each part leaked.

None of these rumors have addressed the most personal, pertinent question I have about the next iPhone: How many weeks after it's released in the rest of the English-speaking world will I be able to get my hands on one here in New Zealand?

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