March 02, 2013, 7:32 AM — The iOSphere raised the word "intuitive" to new heights for the iPhone 6, seizing on an Apple patent that would introduce mind-reading to the mobile experience.
The iPhone will use sensor data to figure out what you want to do and then do it for you. All that's missing now is a quad-core morality processor to ensure that iPhone 6 does what's truly right for us.
[RELATED: 11 fun facts about Apple]
Also this week: fan art fantasies and the prospect of a global LTE iPhone roaming hither and yon, and free, free, free at last!
You read it here second.
"It just looks weird to me, like being born with a navel under your armpit."
~John Brownlee, Cult of Mac, commenting perhaps too vividly on iPhone 6 fan art, the equivalent of visual rumors, that moved the home button from the front to the side of the iPhone.
iPhone 6 will read your mind
A new U.S. patent application by Apple reveals a system that gathers up sensor data on stuff like light and noise levels, temperature, pressure, movements, location, and probably the phases of the moon, hands it to the special "situational awareness module" for some algorithmic magic, and makes a sophisticated guess about what you want to do next you're your iPhone.
Then, instead of you having to press a button or an icon, swipe a setting, select from a drop-down list, and so on, iOS will have already done all that for you. This is what the patent and lots of bloggers and tech sites refer to as a "heightened user experience."
The idea is that the invention could predict "a user's operational desires," and then take action without the user having to do anything.
An IDG News Service story noted that the invention goes hand in glove with a mobile device's "hold switch," which ensures that "no accidental input takes place while [the device is] in a bag or pocket, for example. "Apple's invention could include an automatic hold feature that would switch between the input and hold modes based on the sensor output. For example, if the ambient light level surrounding the device is low, it's likely that the user has placed it in a pocket or bag, and therefore the auto hold feature would be activated."
At International Business Times, Kristin Dian Mariano quickly included the new invention in a story that otherwise recycled tried and true predictions that have been around for years in some cases. The situational awareness patent is one of the "Top 5 iPhone 6, 5S Features Confirmed by Apple's Patents."
Not implied, hinted, suggested, intimated or insinuated. Confirmed. Her other "top features" include no-blur photos, fingerprint sensor, laser projected keyboard, and "non-touch" wireless charging.
The full patent application, published by the US Patent and Trademark Office this week, is officially titled "Electronic device with automatic mode switching."
But that sounded pretty boring to the iOSsphere.
IPhone Canada's headline proclaimed the "intuitive iPhone," which sounds much better than the story's actual description of a "situational awareness handset." Apple Insider described future iPhones that would "anticipate user needs." The Android Guy blog sees it as "the patent to create thinking phones."
But Slate.com got it exactly right, with a video titled "An iPhone That Tries To Read Your Mind", noting that some people think our phones already know too much about us "but Apple has even nosier plans for the future."
You've been warned.
iPhone 6 and companion phones revealed in fan art
But that makes it sound juvenile. To give it the appropriate degree of gravitas, we need to use "concept art" or "rendering."
First up is homage by the Russian site AppleInsider.ru, which has a slick YouTube video, complete with a hammering guitar score, on what the iPhone 6, as well as the "iPhone mini" (or iCheapo) and apparently a third iPhone, will look like if Apple's designers telepathically absorb the concepts in the concept art and apply them to the Next iPhone.
You can find the video here.
Cam Bunton, at Today's Iphone, knows that this is a "just" a mock-up but he can't seem to stop talking about it as if it were real.
"Unlike any other iPhone to have existed, it also features stereo speakers on the back, covered by individually machined holes in the glass panel. Although a different shape to the 5, it does look incredibly similar with its two-tone aluminum and glass design...Somehow, despite having a larger display, the chassis is shorter, thinner and narrower than the iPhone 5."
He regains his sense of proportion by the end of his post. "In all seriousness, I do hope none of the site's readers go along with their claim that this is the iPhone 6. And instead - like us - digest it as what it really is: a concept, mocked up quite well."
This is probably a forlorn hope.
Secondly, we have the "bizarre but beautiful" (as Cult of Mac described them) art by Peter Zigich, whose design includes moving the home button to the side, making models wider and longer, with a displays that look like multi-colored cobblestoned courtyards.
Cult of Mac's John Brownlee was underwhelmed. "It just looks weird to me, like being born with a navel under your armpit," he writes.
That's an image that will stick in your mind for the rest of your life.
iPhone 6 will be able to call on any LTE network anywhere in the world
Qualcomm this week announced a new package of chips - the RF360 Front End Solution - that sits "in front of" its multi-mode, multi-band LTE modems to handle a variety of tasks for any LTE, 3G/2G network. Apple uses Qualcomm's 28-nanometer MDM9615 LTE baseband chip for the iPhone 5. So iOSphere bloggers and tech sites were quick to conclude this means that 1) new iPhones being released in 2013 will incorporate the RF360 and 2) the phones will be able to work on any LTE network around the world.
This Qualcomm infographic about the RF360 shows its components and its relationship to the Qualcomm modem (or Snapdragon processor with paired modem).
The components include the antenna matching tuner, envelope power tracker and power amplifier and antenna switch (Qualcomm also made improvements to these, such as reducing power demand and head, and improving signal quality). LTE networks use different frequencies and there's no common or global band that allows an LTE phone designed for a given band to be used in different regions. Handset makers have to incorporate different front-end components for the same phone to be used on different LTE bands. If you have an iPhone 5, you have one of three models, with different RF components depending on your carrier's LTE (and GSM and WCDMA) frequency bands.
Qualcomm is now offering a single set of front-end and customizable components to handle most of these different frequencies. The RF360 will start to appear in new phones in the latter half of 2013.
"Because it is a new technology and will no doubt be pricier than existing solutions, it is probably initially going to be in high-end phones only. iPhone 5S anybody?" was the summary by Pocket-Lint's Rik Henderson. If the integrated package reduces the bill of materials for phonemakers, and simplifies manufacturing, the RF360 may actually be cheaper for the phone makers.
A thread at the AppleInsider forums proclaimed "New Qualcomm LTE chipset could bring truly global iPhone with support for China Mobile."
It's a bit more complicated than that, as GigaOM's Kevin Fitchard noted in his assessment of the Qualcomm announcement. The new Qualcomm technology brings us "one step closer to a global 4G phone" (not just a global iPhone).
"This technology will be a key element in creating the future universal LTE phone, but before you get too excited it's not the only necessary element," Fitchard writes. "Other components in the RF chain such as the antenna will need to catch up before a device could feasibly work on every LTE network in the world. Smart antenna makers like SkyCross and Ethertronics have designed antennas that can support a dozen bands or so, but they're not quite ready for 40."
"But Qualcomm EVP and co-president of mobile and computing technologies Murthy Renduchintala said that the RF360 would allow device makers to make far fewer variants of their phones," Fitchard writes. "In order to cover all of the world's LTE networks, a vendor is faced with the prospect of designing as many as 10 different devices. The capabilities of RF360 could cut that number down to as few as three, he said."
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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