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Apple may look to sapphire and solar power to keep the iPhone as a contender










The new apple iPhone 6 will have a virtually ‘indestructible’ 5-inch sapphire curved screen with solar sensors and a 13 mega-pixel camera with a super fast f/1.8 lens. Maybe.

With a few months to go until Apple are due to roll out their next model — or models — the rumor mill is humming with predictions of what we can expect from the new phone.

And designers such as Federico Ciccarese have put together what they believe — or rather hope the new phone — may look like.

Unless company CEO Tim Cook plans to silence the speculation by announcing Apple’s new line up at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco in May, Apple will likely continue its recent pattern and unveil the new device — dubbed iPhone 6 — and its accompanying  iOS 8 operating system in September.

After the first iPhone revolutionized the phone industry when it debuted in 2007, Apple’s philosophy to upgrades has been to tweak their idea of near perfection rather than reconstructing it from the ground up.

But with other manufacturers such as Samsung, first playing catch up and then surpassing many specifications of Apple’s phone, recent models have left left many reviewers a little underwhelmed.

Last year Apple added the 5C non-premium phones with plastic covers in multiple colors — a strategy that helped boost Apple’s renaissance in the late 90s with the iMac — and introduced a fingerprint scanning sensor along with other incremental improvements. Times have moved on and iPhone fans have not taken to the cheaper model in the numbers that Apple had hoped.

If Apple is to avoid a relentless drift toward the edge of oblivion like the once-mighty Blackberry, the Cupertino-based company will have to offer some real innovation rather than just another evolutionary upgrade to a phone that has lately come to personify sleek design, reliability, a seamless operating system, and quality components, but not much else.

Most glaringly, the now relatively pokey screen size irks many critics, and is repeatedly cited as one of the main reasons that gadget lovers have switched to alternative platforms such as Android and Windows Phone.



The Samsung S4 for example sports a 5 inch screen with 1920 x 1080 pixels, 441 ppi. Apple for its part has so far touted its 4-inch Retina quality pixel Retina of 1136 x 640 pixels, 326ppi.

Whether the folks at Apple cave to pressure and decide to bump up their screen size by roughly an inch and corresponding resolution or stick to their guns and offer another modest increase remains to be seen.

Bloomberg reported back in November that according to an unnamed “person familiar with the plans” Apple wants to launch two new iPhone designs in the second half of the year, one with 4.7-inch screen and the other with a 5.5-inch screen.

The report said the phones would have displays with glass that “curves downward at the edges” without elaborating on what that means.

Such improvements in the screen size would help the iPhone catch up with Samsung’s Galaxy S4 current screen specs — which currently also produces the Galaxy Note 3 with a 5.7 inch screen — but the Korean company is due to move the ball forward yet again when it launches its next model of the S5 as soon as Monday, according to the Daily Mail. Samsung has already introduced a phone with a curved-screen, the Galaxy Round.

A much larger screen would be a trade off however for many fans of the iPhone’s svelte profile that is barely detectable in the pocket. To offset this problem, Apple have various options including introducing the larger phablet size phone, slimming the current 7.6 mm phone still further or extending the screen closer to the edges.

In addition to filing several new patents for a Liquidmetal chassis — an alloy manufacturing process that allows for higher precision and strength than conventional injection molding — Apple has also wanted to integrate a Touch ID fingerprint sensor into the screen, eliminating the need for a Home button, according to a Forbes article by Anthony Wing Kosner.


Apple’s Gorrilla Glass scratch resistant screen avoids the everyday scuffs that plague plastic screens but can succumb to careless handling such as leaving house keys in the same pocket.

Much of the buzz on tech websites surrounds what can be found on Seeking Alpha’s and 9to5 Mac , which after some investigative reporting unearthed correspondence between Apple and the SEC showing that Apple has an “exclusive contract” with GT Advanced Technologies to produce sapphire crystal components at a new factory due to open this month in Mesa, Arizona.

The correspondence does not show what the material will be used for and it should be noted Apple already has Sapphire lens cover to protect its iSight camera lens. But 9t05Mac calculates based on current information that the factory would ultimately have the capacity to produce some 200 million 5-inch displays per year.

Matt Margolis of Seeking Alpha also calculated GT Advanced Technologies had managed to cut the cost of making sapphire cover screens from $13 to 18 to something comparable with Gorilla Glass, which he said is $3 per screen.


While battery life is the perennial problem of evermore power hungry smartphones, the iPhone’s talk time of just 10 hours compared to the Galaxy S4 claiming 17 hours is now less than impressive.

Margolis has been documenting Apple’s patent filings that show the company is serious about developing a solar sensor that could supplement the phone’s lack luster battery life. Adding meat to the rumor that the iPhone 6 could be inline for the improvement, Margolis found that German company Manz AG had received a $68 million order from a “leading” smart phone manufacturer to produce the solar cell equipment.


The iPhone 5S introduced a number of hardware improvements that made the camera more attractive to multi-media amateurs and even professionals, including a larger sensor, stabilization, improved color tones with flash, burst mode, faster f/2.2 lens and improved image capture. The video offered 1080 pHD with slow motion and live zoom.

But again with the Galaxy S4 sporting 13 megapixel camera on the back and 2 megapixel front, Apple is no longer a frontrunner. If Apple plays  the numbers game, the iPhone’s main camera could get an upgrade from the current 8-megapixel to between 10 and 13-megapixels.

More useful improvements for photographers would include an even faster lens with aperture of f/1.8, and further improvements to the sensor.


Speculation also continues about what a future iWatch with a 1.5 inch display that would serve as an accessory to the iPhone and allow the user to carry out a few basic functions of its mothership. Few specific details are known about the device. Some tech sites including Apple Insider are reporting on a China Times story that Apple has awarded one of its suppliers, Tawain-based TPK, a contract to produce silver nanowire-based touch technology for the iWatch.

Stay tuned for more rumors and leaks as speculation heats up closer to the actual  release date.



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