iPhone 6 rumors are dreadful, but they persist day in and day out all year long and, eventually, start to filter into a real image of what Apple's working on. There's a reason we cover them, too.
According to a March 2014 report from comScore, Apple still has the largest smartphone market share in the United States by a large margin, and it sells far fewer SKUs than the next closest competitor, Samsung. In other words, people care about the next device Apple is going to deliver, and so do we, just like we care about every manufacturer's flagship.
Around this time every year, stuff starts to heat up quicker than the weather does – we're presented by something new every day. A lot of the information seems junky or false, but sometimes it's hard to tell what's legitimate or not. Part leaks always help a little bit, the supply chain is always good for that, but those usually start to surface closer to the launch of the new iPhone, which is typically in September.
I thought about writing an iPhone 6 article titled "what do we know?" but the fact is, we don't know anything for certain; at least I don't. Instead, we can look at the stories that are surfacing to get an idea of what to expect and, generally, they get pretty close to what Apple is planning.
So, for all of the consumers out there who are trying to figure out what the iPhone 6 is going to offer, we can look at several of the rumors to get a good starting point of what one of the most anticipated upcoming smartphones will offer. As we move closer to September, we'll have a much better idea of what we can really expect.
In the meantime, lets run down what has surfaced so far.
This is pretty much a given right now. Apple changes its iPhone design every two years, and following the launches of the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 5s, it's time for a new look. What will it look like? That's where things start to get fishy. There are enough reports out there from the mainstream media suggesting that Apple is going to build, at the very least, a 4.7-inch iPhone. Several credible outlets also point to a larger 5.5-inch device.
Right now it seems most likely that Apple is moving toward a thinner design that reflects the industrial design language introduced on the iPad Air and iPad mini, and with some redesigned button placements. There was early talk the iPhone 5 might have glass running around the edges, but that seems to be off the table at this point.
It seems like the iPhone 6 will look like the models in the gallery we've included above, which includes a bunch of images from various sources. The pictures are of "dummy units" that were built by accessory makers on a set of schematics that are apparently legitimate. Oh, and some molds.
Beware: accessory makers have been wrong before. Case Mate missed the iPhone 5 by a mile back in 2011.
The iPhone 6 will almost certainly run Apple's upcoming mobile operating system, iOS 8, out of the box. iOS 8 isn't supposed to offer a drastic redesign like iOS 6 to iOS 7 did, and instead will rely on adding new features. Unlike Android, Apple relies on its iOS releases to add new features to all of its applications at once, so we may see major improvements to apps such as Maps. 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman, who has a basically perfect track record on Apple rumors, says we should see improvements to public transit data, too.
A few shots of what iOS 8 might look like surfaced two months ago, in March, and revealed several new features that have also been discussed by Gurman, including TextEdit and Preview applications, in addition to a new Healthbook app. Healthbook may sync with the rumored iWatch and should provide granular health data on all kinds of information including your heart rate, steps walked each day, blood pressure and even possibly your blood glucose and oxygen levels.
The latter may require approval from the FDA, which Apple apparently has held meetings with, according to a New York Times article from January. iOS 8 is also expected to introduce other new features, like support for Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) for carriers that will start to support it this year. It will be one of the first upcoming smartphones to offer this sort of real VoLTE functionality, if true.
iOS 8 may be discussed during Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June, though Gurman also suggested that Apple may instead put its focus on OS X 10.10 and could save the bigger iOS 8 features for a later update, like iOS 8.1.
For a better idea of what we might expect, we've included some of the leaked renders and concepts in the gallery above.
August or September Launch
I'm still siding with the reports that have pointed toward a September launch for the iPhone 6, but a news story from Taiwan came out on Friday that said Apple is actually aiming for an August launch for one of its upcoming smartphones (of which there are two). That date was pinpointed for the 4.7-inch model, while Apple's 5.5-inch iPhone 6 will come in September.
Friday's story doesn't line up with others, however, which have suggested that Apple's 5.5-inch iPhone 6 has been pushed until the fourth quarter of this year due to supply shortages. It's always possible that Apple has wiggled around those problems and will get it out the door sooner.
As a consumer, I hope Apple introduces both of its upcoming smartphones at the same time. I'd hate to buy a new iPhone 6 and then find out that a larger-screened model is coming just a few weeks later. Either way, that might happen, since the 4.7-inch iPhone is apparently entering production this month. We expect Touch ID will remain in tact, in addition to newer guts like an A8 processor, but we don't know much else just yet.
Apple has a sapphire plant in Arizona. Pundits have suggested that Apple is manufacturing bulk sapphire for use on its iWatch and in other places where it uses minimal amounts of the material, like over the camera lens. However, an Apple patent that was submitted last September at least suggests that the company has considered creating smudge-proof and super scratch resistant sapphire displays for the iPhone.
Typically, such a large amount of sapphire would prove extremely expensive. If true, that might add some legitimacy to analyst expectations that the iPhone 6 will start at $299 on contract instead of $199, though we're not quite sure we believe that just yet. Either way, if Apple is going with sapphire, it means Corning and Gorilla Glass are probably kicked to the curb. Maybe that's why a Corning exec trashed the use of sapphire on a potential iPhone.
A Better Camera
Smartphone cameras have replaced any need to carry around a point and shoot, and Apple's first class iPhone cameras have helped usher that mentality to the mainstream. The iPhone 5s already has a fantastic shooter, but Apple's competitors, and the camera industry in general, aren't sitting still.
Earlier this week Apple received a patent for a "super-resolution" camera that takes advantage of optical image stabilization. We don't know if Apple is already implementing this technology into the iPhone 5s, but competitors like LG already offer it in phones such as the G2. Nokia also offers OIS on the Lumia 1020.
Apple may keep the megapixel count the same – as HTC has shown us, it's not always about the megapixel size. The 8-megapixel shooter on the iPhone 5s is still really solid, and one rumor suggests Apple will improve it with electronic image stabilization (EIS) instead of optical image stabilization, which relies on hardware tweaks. This is one of the areas where we will learn more information when parts start to leak.
There are still hundreds of other iPhone 6 rumors out there, including suggestions the iPhone 6 will have temperature, pressure and humidity sensors, but those in this article seem the most plausible to us.
Again, we don't really know anything for certain right now, but we can look to credible sources combined with leaks, patents and other stories to get a better idea of what's coming.
Thankfully, we have just three to four more months before Tim Cook takes the stage and unveils the iPhone 6, and you can be sure we'll know even more by then.