Here we go again: The Apple rumor mill cranks up

Rumors surface about new iPhones, fifth-gen Wi-Fi in upcoming Macs, and the widening rift between Apple and Samsung, this time over mobile chips

Apple is off to a hot start in the new year, if this week's rumor mill is to be believed. There are signs that the company's quick update from the iPad 3 to the iPad 4 in October will set the pace for more rapid introductions of iPhones this year. Apple's patent battles with Samsung are affecting its chip strategy as well, and talk of a deal with Broadcom to bring fifth-gen Wi-Fi to Apple's upcoming Macs is being revived. Phew! -- welcome to 2013.

First off: a recurring rumor that Apple is partnering with Broadcom to bring superfast 802.11ac networking to its upcoming Macs. The 802.11ac standard, also referred to as fifth-gen Wi-Fi, offers faster throughput, higher capacity, and better power efficiency. Broadcom is one of the few chipmakers currently manufacturing 802.11ac chip sets. There was a similar report last year, which never came to fruition, but perhaps the rumors this time will gain credence. As Matt Brian of TheNextWeb writes, "This [could] provide a much-needed boost for the standard, which is currently undergoing revisions, as electronics manufacturers look to introduce new consumer products capable of supporting high-speed networks."

Another chip rumor opens up a new front in the Apple-vs.-Samsung war. While their patent battles continue to be hotly waged in courts, Cnet reports Apple is set to move A6X production from Samsung to TSMC. The A6X processor is used in Apple's fourth-generation iPad, and according to reporting from Taiwan-based Commercial Times, "Apple has agreed with TSMC to initiate trial production of its A6X processor during the first quarter. ... The trial period could decide whether TSMC will be given the entire A6X order." This is no small matter, as Apple was projected to be the world's largest chip buyer last year. Samsung Display terminated its LCD contract with Apple back in October, and it seems relations between the two will continue to unravel in 2013.

Samsung ended the year with soaring sales of its Galaxy smartphones, but Apple looks set to fire back with an earlier-than-expected upgrade of the iPhone. Ars Technica reports that apps are being tested on a next-generation iPhone that runs the upcoming major revision of iOS -- this just months after shipping iPhone 5 and iOS 6. According to developers, references to an "iPhone6.1" running iOS 7 have appeared in usage logs for their apps. MacRumors has seen similar references to iOS 7 in Web analytics logs.

The fact that Apple is already testing apps on new hardware and software "indicates that Apple may be readying the next iPhone for sale earlier than the fall time frame in which it launched the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4S before it," according to Ars Technica, which writes that "at least one analyst -- Topeka Capital Markets' Brian White -- is predicting that Apple will release a new model in May or June. This is in line with speculation that Apple may be accelerating the pace of product development to better compete with competitors that release multiple new devices per year." Of course, there were similar rumors last year that ended up not being true. What's undoubtedly true is that we will see a new iOS and a new iPhone in 2013, as we have seen every year since 2008.

On a lighter note, InfoWorld's Robert X. Cringely looked into his crystal ball and says, "I'm renewing my prediction that Apple will bestow a new app-friendly HDTV unto a grateful planet. Why? Because a) it has to happen eventually, and b) what else does it have left? The number of devices that can be doused in magical sparkle sauce (aka Apple iOS) is dwindling rapidly." Cringely follows up with a related prediction: "Tim Cook will introduce the iBlender, a miraculous device that allows you to make delicious life-changing smoothies by tapping on a touchscreen, provided you only use ingredients pre-approved by the Apple Store. (Sorry, no BlackBerrys.) The Internet will spend the next three months tearing down the iBlender to price out its component parts, writing about how blended drinks have changed everything forever, and speculating when the next, even smaller model will appear."

And InfoWorld's Andrew C. Oliver includes Apple's market share in "10 things you needn't worry about in 2013," saying: "Look, Apple could release an iTurd and the faithful would still line up for it. Personally, I need a bigger iPhone screen because I'm getting old and can't see as well as I used to. I also need to tether at 20Mbps and not 3Mbps because I want my data right now and have no desire to wait. (As you may have guessed, unlike certain people, I am not a fan.)"

This article, "Here we go again: The Apple rumor mill cranks up," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.