Update: For up-to-date information on the iPhone 5 announcement on September 12, check out our full launch coverage!
Here we go again. The release of the sixth-generation iPhone is, presumably, right around the corner, just as it is every year. And that means rumors about its features have begun to swirl around the Web. The iPhone rumor mill is markedly more subdued this year, likely due to the fact that the technology media shafted itself and its audience so thoroughly last time around — but fear not, fanboys and fangirls! We still have plenty of speculation and hearsay to sift through. Below is a brief rundown of the most-expected features of the next iPhone, whatever it may be called.
Screen: 4-inches, thinner
Leading the pack in the screen rumor department this year is, without a doubt, the Wall Street Journal. In the middle of May, both WSJ and, later the same day, Reuters, reported that the next iPhone will have a screen that measures “at least” 4-inches diagonally. (All current iPhone iterations have a 3.5-inch screen.) These reports were corroborated a week or so later by 9to5Mac, which provided some exact figures: 3.95-inches diagonally, with a 640 x 1136 pixel resolution, and a 16:9 aspect ratio. The width of the new iPhone will allegedly be the same as the current iPhone (1.94 inches), but with a “taller” 3.45-inch display.
Aside from the noticable dimensions of the screen, the next iPhone’s display will also be thinner, according to WSJ. Apple has reportedly opted to use “in-cell” technology to build the sixth-gen iPhone’s touchscreen, which incorporates the touch mechanism with the part of the display that, well, displays stuff. This allows Apple to have one fewer layers of glass, thus making the overall display thinner. This, in turn, gives Apple the ability to either make the phone thinner, or (more likely) to include a 4G LTE radio and a bigger battery to power it. We’d heard the in-cell rumor before, but the WSJ reports adds an extra level of believability to the information.
Design: Same, just taller
Given the purported shape of the next iPhone’s display — the most prominent feature of any touchscreen device — it should come as no surprise that the sixth-gen iPhone will allegedly have roughly the same width as the iPhone 4/4S, but just be a bit taller. Based on leaked images and video of what is allegedly the rear shell of the next iPhone, it will also look more or less like the iPhone 4/4S, just with a taller screen. From what we’ve seen so far, the shiny black glass that covers the back will be replaced with a more matte finish piece covering most of the back of the phone. The long and the short of it is, however: the next iPhone will probably not look strikingly different from the iPhone 4/4S.
Update: While the mere appearance of a so-called iPhone case on the Internet prove nothing, the appearance of iPhone cases in AT&T’s system most certainly do. On Sept. 5, thanks to some generous sources, BGR discovered a number of iPhone 5 cases in AT&T’s inventory which match the design specifications as those outlined in the above two sections. In other words: what you see above (and below) is most likely more or less what the next iPhone will look like.
Dock connector: Goodbye, 30-pin. Hello, 19-pin
More than a year ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple would introduce a new way of charging in its next iPhone (which we’d come to learn was the iPhone 4S). This didn’t happen that time around. But the rumor has returned repeatedly. Back in February, iMore posted a report and photos of a “micro dock” that would “make room for bigger batteries, 4G radios,” and other iPhone components. And on July 23, Reuters reported that the next iPhone will be the first iOS device to sport a new, 19-pin dock connector, which would replace the standard 30-pin dock connector that has been a part of iPods and iPhones for years. Of course, this rumor immediately sparked fears that the iPhone dock accessories we’ve all been collecting will no longer work due to the dock change. But iMore’s Rene Ritchie says that Apple will supply customers with an adapter, so don’t go tossing out your iHome speakers just yet.
Hardware guts: Nano-SIM, 1GB RAM, LTE, quad-core A6
In addition to a taller, thinner screen, Apple will allegedly make more room inside the next iPhone by adopting nano-SIM technology, which is 40 percent smaller than micro-SIM cards. The Financial Times reports (account needed) that Apple’s wireless carrier partners in Europe have begun stockpiling nano-SIM cards in preparation for the next iPhone.
As mentioned, the reason Apple needs to open up space inside the sixth-gen iPhone is that it will include a larger, LTE wireless radio, as well as a bigger battery to support the energy-sucking, high-speed connection. BGR claims to have “confirmed” that the next iPhone, like the third-generation iPad, will have 4G LTE connectivity, as well as 1GB of RAM — double that of the iPhone 4/4S — and Near-Field Communication (NFC) capabilies for digital wallet features.
Finally, notoriously wrong, Taiwan-based website DigiTimes reports that the next iPhone will include a quad-core A6 processor based Samsung’s Exynos 4 CPU. Despite DigiTimes’ terrible track record, this rumor is not outlandish, as many of the new Android-based devices that Apple will be going up against already sport quad-core processors. That said, Apple does not put much weight in things like hardware numbers or monikers, so keep that in mind.
It’s not iPhone 5, it’s “the new iPhone”
We don’t have any confirmation of this, but we suspect that Apple will choose to abandon numbers on its next iPhone much like it has with the third iPad. It’s simply named the “iPad.” That’s it. The next iPhone may follow suit, tossing aside numbers and letters in favor of the simple name “iPhone.” It makes our lives as journalists tougher, but for you, the change won’t matter.
Update: In its Sept. 12 event invitation (see more below), Apple coyly shaped the shadowing of the “12” to look like a “5.” Apple is know for adding clues to its event invitations. And the only thing we can deduce from this one is that the next iPhone will in fact be called “iPhone 5.” We find it hard to believe, too, but we don’t know what else to make of it. Take a look:
Launch date: September 12; Release date: September 21
The latest word on release date comes from French blog App4Phone.fr, citing an unnamed source from a leading Chinese accessories manufacturer, who says Apple is set to debut on Friday, September 21. While this rumor is anything if not dubious, it does come fairly close to the October 14 release date of the iPhone 4S. (Apple often sticks to similar release dates from year to year.) Furthermore, Verizon’s chief financial officer Fran Shammo hinted during the company’s quarterly conference call earlier this month that it expects a major phone release (i.e. the next iPhone) in the fourth quarter (last three months) of this year.
Update: As reported by iMore and AllThingsD, Apple will, as mentioned above, hold an event on September 12, and it looks highly likely that the iPhone 5 (or whatever it will be called) will make its debut during the event. Furthermore, several Verizon employees have confirmed that the wireless carrier has blocked out vacations from Sept. 21 through 30 — a strong hint that Sept. 21 is official launch day for the sixth-gen iPhone.
We’ll update this space as more new iPhone rumors become available.