Neither I personally, nor GeekBeat in general, typically deal in rumors. However, there’s enough credible tech journalists who think there will be a September 12th Apple event that leads me to think there is definitely fire behind the rumor mill’s smoke. The general consensus is also that this is when the next iteration of the iPhone will be announced.
To begin, I have to offer this disclaimer, take everything I write in this post with a grain of salt. Nothing is “confirmed” until Apple announces it on stage. As the evidence leaks from the Samsung v. Apple patent trial has shown, not everything that Apple develops goes on store shelves. There can be fully developed competing prototypes that Apple doesn’t choose between until they absolutely have to go to production. There’s also this little thing called Photoshop. This article is a guess based on what’s been revealed with a few assumptions to fill in the gaps. What shows up might be spot on, somewhat different, or even wildly different.
What’s In a Name?
iPhone naming so far has been inconsistent so far to say the least. The second generation was the 3G referring to a UMTS data radio, the 3rd was the 3GS with S meaning speed for the faster processor, the 4th generation was simply iPhone 4, with the fifth being called the 4S. Colloquially, the six generation is being called the iPhone 5 or iPhone next, but what will be its real name?
This year’s iPad might provide a clue. Taking a page from the Mac, simply calling it “iPad”. What everyone else uses as a descriptor whether it was iPad 3 or iPad 2012 was up to them. Don’t be at all surprised if the new iPhone is likewise simply “iPhone”, especially after all the fervor about the iPhone. However, for the rest of this article I will be referring to it as iPhone 5 since that’s a term most readers will understand.
What Does it Look Like?
Judging by the alleged casing leak, don’t expect a radical departure from the iPhone 4/4S in terms of styling. In fact, with the exception of taller profile, it should look very much like its predecessors if the prototype is to be believed. So, if you’re looking for carbon fibre phone or a liquid metal phone that morphs screens sizes and turns into Robert Patrick, not this time around. Sorry.
A Bigger Screen?
The iPhone has maintained a 3:2 ratio 3.5” screen for its entire existence. In the First three generations, its 320×480. The Retina Display equipped 4 and 4S doubled this to 640×960. If rumors are true, this might be changing. It will still be 640 pixels on the narrow side, but will be elongated to 1138 pixels on the long side for a roughly 4.0” inch screen with a 16:9 ratio. For the home screen, this will add a fifth row of app icons. For videos, they would now take advantage of the entire screen. The screen also looks to have in-cell touch capability instead of a separate touch layer. This should allow the phone to have either a slimmer physique or a little more room for a larger battery.
For cellular networking, expect Qualcomm’s second generation multi-band LTE/GSM/CDMA Gobi MDM9615 to be the chip. Compared to the first generation LTE chip in the current iPads, the 9615 will be less battery intensive and support more LTE bands. The big question is will this be the LTE world phone. If the next iPhone could operate on the 700mhz, 800mhz, 1800mhz, 1900mhz, 2100mhz and 2600mhz spectrums, that would represent a large portion of the current and planned LTE networks. As there have been no confirmed phones (that I am aware of) on the market to use this chip, what exactly it’s capable of is unknown. That being said, with Pentaband phones known to have shown up on AWS carriers, six-band capability might not completely be out of the question. Also, don’t be surprised if the iPhone 5 has Voice over LTE capability.
What Will Power It?
Here’s the thing, while the phone will be bigger, a 4.0” screen would still put it in the small to medium end size-wise compared to the HTC One X or the Samsung Galaxy S III. Even using a 28 or 32nm process, I would be very surprised if there was enough room for a quad-core CPU. In fact, unless Apple were to base an A6 around Qualcomm’s Krait CPU from the Snapdragon S4 SoC instead of an ARM Cortex, there is very little Apple could upgrade. ARM’s A15 and graphics supplier PowerVR’s 6-series aren’t expected to be available until 2013. Personally, I’d be pretty surprised not to see an updated version of the A5 back for a second tour.
A New Connector
If the leaked casing is the iPhone that Apple plans to release, the 30-pin connector will be joining the dodo in extinction. The question is how many pins. Different sources have pegged it with either 8, 9, or 19 pins, with most of the bets placed on 9. I know there’s a lot of equity in the 30-pin infrastructure, but this is long overdue. I/O technologies have changed considerably since it was introduced in late 2001 and it takes up an enormous amount of real estate in devices that are expected to continuously fit more into less. This could have a few practical benefits. On the alleged prototype casings, the speaker and microphone grills look considerably larger than those at the bottom of the 4/4S.
I haven’t been able to find anything conclusively here, I’m going to take a stab in the dark based on past behavior. The rear camera is not a point of weakness, so don’t be surprised if it goes either way. If there is a 12MP sensor out there that can give a higher quality experience when taking photos, I could see Apple upgrading the part. If not, staying with the current 8MP sensor from the 4S is a real possibility. The area for improvement could be the Facetime sensor up front. With the headphone jack being moved to the bottom, that could free up room for a 720p front-facing camera for Facetime. That being said, devil’s advocate, AT&T can’t deal with normal SD Facetime traffic.
If I were a betting man, these would be the specs…
(Remember, these come from my gut, not a secret Chinese source)
So, what will the next iPhone be? Exactly what the iPhones have been in the past, not the largest nor most powerful, but a phone designed around how a majority of customers use their phone. It’s not going to convert the most ardent Android users, but it doesn’t have to. It will be what its predecessors were, the most successful and by a wide margin, most profitable mobile device on the market whatever the specs turn out to be.
For the best and most comprehensive iPhone 5 rumor coverage I’ve seen, check out iMore. Otherwise, you’ll hear more from us on September 12th.
(Second and third images courtesy of Bryce Haymond, Blackpool Creative)