Earlier in the year some people had hinted that Apple would be releasing its next iPhone at “some point in June”. With June nearly been and gone we can safely assume that these were baseless rumours and, as expected, the iPhone 5 will finally make its way to the public later in the year. With iOS 6 due to see its final release in October, it is expected that the iPhone 5 will be released shortly after.
While the earlier rumours may have had little weight behind them, more recent iPhone 5 rumours are starting to converge around the same features and design. So, what are the most persistent iPhone 5 rumours currently circulating the blogosphere, and what exactly can we expect from the next iPhone?
One of the most persistent rumours regarding the iPhone 5 is that it will feature a larger screen, somewhere in the region of 4 inches. This rumour was doing the rounds before the release of the iPhone 4S and stems from the increasing popularity of larger Android handsets such as the Galaxy S3. The rumour turned out to be incorrect back in October 2011, as the iPhone 4S retained the standard 3.5 inches of earlier iPhone models, but it has gained increasing weight in recent months with a number of leaks.
A few months back, Apple supplier Pegatron stated that the iPhone 5 would have a 4.6 inch screen. They had little back this claim up with however, and it was widely dismissed. In May, “people familiar with the matter” informed the Wall Street Journal that the iPhone 5's screen would be “at least 4 inches.” While the WSJ is a highly credible source, it too had little to back up its claims.
Shortly after, Bloomberg stated that an “unnamed source” had confirmed to them that the iPhone 5 screen would be in the region of 4 inches, but it was not until the end of May that we started to see some physical evidence. A photo of what was reportedly the iPhone 5's front panel appeared on Macrumors and did indeed show a taller device – but again no proof that the piece of plastic belonged to the next iPhone.
Macrumors then got their hands on images of a complete device from the unlikeliest of sources: iPhone repair website uBreakiFix.com. The images confirmed the taller screen, as well as some other rumours such as a redesigned dock connector. But again, many people dismissed these images as fakes; after all, how would a small phone repair company get their hands on one of the most guarded gadgets on the planet?
Similar, but more detailed images appeared on 9to5Mac the following day; this time showing some of the phone’s innards too. While these were certainly photos of the same device from Macrumors, they too could have been forgeries. After a detailed schematic appeared on Macrumors (perhaps the easiest piece of evidence to fake), along with a video from ETrade Supply, even the most hardened sceptics were silenced when the very same device appeared in a carphone dock behind Scott Forstall during a presentation at WWDC. While these may all be images of a prototype or dummy model, all the evidence seems to suggest that the iPhone 5 will have a larger screen in the region of 4 inches.
All of the leaks that have made an appearance so far suggest that the iPhone 5's screen will be larger by adding extra length but maintaining the same width. If they turn out to be correct, these new screen dimensions would result in a different aspect ratio for the new iPhone – causing a whole host of problems for apps and app developers.
It has been noted that during the unveiling of iOS 6 at WWDC, one of the features briefly mentioned by Apple was something called “Auto Layout”. This is thought to be a feature built into iOS that will allow app developers to automatically configure their apps for different screen dimensions, removing the need for app developers to redesign existing apps to accommodate the new 16:9 widescreen layout. Auto Layout could be something entirely different, but it does seem to support the claim of new screen proportions being used on the next iPhone. Auto Layout seems to confirm the claims of a larger 4 inch screen, and will also make the next iPhone more suitable for widescreen movies.
New dock connector
Along with the larger screen, one of the most persistent rumours in recent months has been that Apple will completely redesign the dock connector for the iPhone 5. Rather than using an industry standard such as microUSB, Apple has used the same proprietary 30 pin dock connector on all iOS devices since the third generation iPod.
The new 19 pin dock connector can be seen in a number of the images and videos of what is purported to be the iPhone 5, and will consume far less room inside the iPhone and on its exterior.
While the new dock connector is similar in size to microUSB it still remains a proprietary Apple design. There is some speculation that Apple will include a MagSafe-like magnet latch and that cables may include chips to verify that accessories are properly licenced.
The space saved by using a more compact dock connector will allow Apple to include additional hardware, such as NFC, and to produce a much slimmer iPhone.
A recent leaked, er, drawing, of the iPhone 5 seems to confirm that it will be much slimmer than the iPhone 4 and 4S. When it was launched in 2010, the iPhone 4 was the slimmest smartphone on the planet, measuring just 9.3mm, but has since been beaten in this respect by a number of other handsets. The new claim is that the iPhone 5 will measure just 7.6mm in thickness, making it slimmer than the Galaxy S3 and only marginally thicker than the Motorola Razr. This is an unconfirmed claim, and an unlikely one, considering that most people would find 7.6mm a bit too thin. Either way, it is almost certain that the iPhone 5 will have a redesigned body rather than using the same casing as the iPhone 4 and 4S, and a slimmer design may be on the cards.
Swappable camera lenses
Rather than being based on a dubious drawing, this next rumour is based on an actual patent filed by Apple. The “Back Panel for a Portable Electronic Device with Different Camera Lens Options” system was originally patented by Apple back in 2010, and would allow iPhone owners to switch between different camera lenses when taking photos.
The system would work by having back panels that could be easily swapped to change the lens used by the camera, or a single back panel with two lenses that could be flipped over to change the lens being used. It should be noted that Apple files a huge amount of patents for many things that never make it into a final product, so the existence of this patent does not guarantee it will be featured on the iPhone 5, or any future iPhone for that matter. Swappable lens covers would give the iPhone 5 an edge in the camera department, and the phone will most likely see some major improvements to its camera – although it is quite likely to remain set at 8 megapixels.
Facebook Integration and Face Recognition
Facebook integration is not exactly a rumour as it has already been confirmed by Apple and curious individuals can already experiment with it by downloading iOS 6 beta. However, as iOS 6 is still in development it is possible that more Facebook features will be added in before it sees its final release later in the year. Facebook has just acquired Face.com, the Israeli facial recognition service and, with a Facebook phone still a long way off it is possible that Facebook will include some form of auto-face recognition in its iOS integration.
Such a system would allow you to take a photo on the iPhone 5 and have your friends automatically tagged in it when you upload it to the social network. It would also allow you to more easily organise photos stored on your iPhone, with images automatically associated with your phone contacts.
Google included primitive facial recognition on Android Ice Cream Sandwich in the form of Face Unlock. Face Unlock can be easily fooled by holding up a photograph to the phone’s camera, but Google has always insisted that its presence on Ice Cream Sandwich is more for entertainment than security. Apple also owns patents for facial recognition, although there is no evidence that they have plans to introduce a similar unlocking mechanism.
NFC Support with Passbook
Passbook utilises NFC technology to allow people to store tickets on their iPhone instead of in their pocket. With Passbook you can keep a digital ticket for trains, planes or movies, collect retail coupons, vouchers and loyalty cards without cluttering up your wallet or bag. Such a scheme will require other companies to play ball in order to be effective, but with the number of iPhone owners on the planet it is not hard to imagine Apple bending the arms of a few businesses.
Passbook also comes with location based features – if you have your airline boarding pass contained on Passbook, it will notify you if you suddenly need to board from a different gate. Passes will also appear on your lock screen at the appropriate time and place. There is some speculation that Passbook will be the precursor to an Apple mobile wallet app, although Apple has not stated any plans for this just yet. Despite many people having concerns over security, mobile payments are likely to become a key feature of smartphones in the coming year – with Samsung already trialling a payment scheme at the London Olympics.
3D Maps with Maps App
In part of its on-going war with Android, Apple has been keen to ditch Google products on its iOS devices at every opportunity. Although the existing iPhone Maps app was designed by Apple and differed quite substantially from Google Maps, it still relied heavily on mapping data supplied by Google. The new Maps app for iOS 6 will instead source its maps from TomTom, and even Bing Maps surprisingly. It will also include a 3D flyover mode for many major cities, turn-by-turn navigation and voice controls via Siri integration. The addition of Siri support should make the iPhone 5 one of the most advanced smartphones when it comes to navigation, allowing you to set destinations while driving for example.
The iPhone 5 will improve its 3G connectivity and include support for China Mobile’s proprietary TD-SCDMA 3G network. With 650 million potential iPhone customers, Apple is very keen to build up demand in China and has gone to create lengths to woo Chinese consumers, adding support for Mandarin and Cantonese to Siri as well as an easier method for inputting Chinese characters with iOS 6.
Although China does not have a 4G LTE network in place just yet, the iPhone 5 is expected to come with LTE support. 4G LTE may be available in the UK by as early as next year, with several phone companies already conducting trials for the next generation network technology.
Apple has also added support for using FaceTime over 3G, as it had previously been restricted to use with Wi-Fi. The addition of 4G should enhance many other iPhone features, such as Siri, which rely heavily on data connections for their operation.
Some rumour mongers had earlier stated a June launch for the iPhone 5, but this will almost certainly not be the case. The latest estimates speculate that the iPhone 5 will be launched shortly after iOS 6 later this year in October, with a similar launch date to last year’s iPhone 4S.
Aside from the Galaxy S3, the iPhone 5 is perhaps the most anticipated gadget of 2012. It will be interesting to see if the iPhone manages to beat Samsung’s record for pre-orders (at a staggering nine million), but it can almost be taken for granted that sales will be through the roof. Although much of what is known about the iPhone 5 still remains hearsay, Foxconn boss Terry Gou, who has undoubtedly seen the iPhone 5 in its current state, insists that it will “put Samsung’s Galaxy S3 to shame.”