The iPhone 5/4S: The Complete Rumor Rundown

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Apple is less than 24 hours away from announcing the next iPhone. Unlike previous announcements, this show will be intimate and small, held at Apple’s HQ rather than a large venue like the Moscone Center. Most important, Steve Jobs isn’t headlining the show; although, if rumors are to be believed, he might make a cameo. Apple’s latest commander and chief, Tim Cook, is expected to lead the charge at what will likely amount to one of the biggest Internet traffic days of the year.

Apple is rather tardy releasing this latest iPhone, missing its traditional summer launch date by a good two months. However, if the rumor mills are to be believed, there, the new iPhone will be very similar to the old iPhone – except where it isn’t. We compiled all of the rumors here along with stating the viability for each. Some are wide-eyed, others are realistic, while some are pure fanboy fantasy.



The iPhone 4S Will Be A Less Expensive iPhone

Argument

  • Numerous leaked SKU line ups with iPhone prototypes that are made of just plastic rather than glass and aluminum found in Brazil.
  • Apple would completely disrupt Android and Windows Phone 7 by selling a new iPhone at $100 or less.
  • The iPhone 4 still packs enough computing power for most users.

Objections:

  • Unsubstantiated leaks cannot be trusted

Judgment: The stars just seem aligned for this one. The iPhone 4 is still a hot phone despite being over 15 months old. Apple just needs to repackage the current hardware into a less expensive body to completely demolish the competition.



Redesigned, thinner iPhone 5

Argument:

  • Countless thinner cases have leaked over the previous months all purportedly built for the next iPhone.
  • Every successive iPhone has been thinner than the previous.
  • Apple likes to keep design cues constant between products and so the next iPhone will look similar to the iPad.

Objection:

  • None, it’s a pretty solid claim

Judgment: Apple has never released a product thicker than the previous model and won’t start with the next iPhone.


Larger screen

Argument:

  • The iPhone 4’s 3.5-inch screen is tiny compared to recent superphones from Motorola, Samsung, and LG.
  • Leaked cases signal that the next iPhone will be physically longer and wider. A larger screen is logical if the size of the iPhone is increasing.
  • Our own research has shown that a larger screen is “likely.”

Objections:

  • Larger screen could mess with apps designed for the smaller screen

Judgment: Apple cannot ignore the current popular trend of larger screen sizes. As long as the phone is thinner, a larger screen will not make the phone feel any bigger.



Edge-to-edge glass

Argument:

  • Apple has always pushed the limit with its LCD implementation.
  • Edge-to-edge glass would give Apple something to tout over just using a larger screen.

Objections:

  • Likely higher manufacturing cost, which would cut into the profit margin
  • Could lead to more broken screens

Judgment: Not likely just yet. Apple pushes the limit but only as far as its financially viable.



NFC Chip
Argument:
  • NFC is the next big thing and already a feature on leading Android handsets
  • An NFC-equipped iPhone would further the advancement of mobile payments

Objection:

  • Current NFC radios are separate microchips and not integrated into a unified communication chip, which requires PCB real estate and extra battery power
  • Apple could be waiting until the payment companies make a lucrative offer to them

Judgment: Apple tends to incorporate non-proprietary tech only after its viability is proven. So that’s a “No.”



Dual-core A5 CPU

Argument:

  • Apple tends to include a faster CPU with each iPhone release
  • iOS 5 will likely benefit from a faster, dual-core CPU

Objection:

  • More powerful CPUs tend to decrease battery life

Judgment: It’s very likely the next major iPhone will have the A5 CPU. However, Apple might stick with the A4 for a mid-model refresh like the rumored iPhone 4S



New home button

Argument:

  • Leaked cases and bezels show an elongated opening/button
  • Touch-sensitive bezels allows for new controls, multitouch gestures

Objections:

  • Completely changes Apple’s “Keep It Simple, Stupid” design
  • Could break current apps

Judgment: Don’t start designing your next Kickstarter iPhone case project around this rumor. Apple will likely stick with its traditional home button.



8MP camera

Argument:

  • MP count has increased with every new iPhone release
  • An 8MP photo previously appeared with iPhone 5 metadata
  • Megapixel counts are unfortunately a comparison point between different phones

Objections:

  • Higher megapixel counts does not necessarily improve picture quality. Apple knows this. Hopefully.

Judgment: Camera sensors are constantly shrinking in size while increasing in MP count. Expect a higher count sensor but not necessarily an 8MP version.



CDMA/GSM dual-mode radio

Argument:

  • The next iPhone will use Qualcomm Gobi Baseband and run on both GSM and CDMA networks
  • Dual-mode phones have shown up in developer’s usage stats
  • Would allow Apple to makes/sell just one version, decreasing manufacturing costs
  • Allow Apple to sell a completely unlocked iPhone. Buy one from the Apple Store and activate it however you want
  • Carrier independence is a huge selling point

Objection:

  • Dual-mode mobile radios are still very rare
  • R&D cost could make it financially unfeasible

Judgment: It’s hard to say. The upsides are huge for both Apple and consumers, but dual-mode radios are not widely used. Apple tends to use highly-available and therefore, high margin components.



Extensive voice controls
Argument:
  • The next iPhone will have powerful voice controls built by Siri called Assistant, which Apple bought last year for $200m
  • The voice controls would outclass Android’s with more natural navigation paths
  • These function would need beefy hardware like the rumored A5 CPU, which creates an up-sell point for iPhone 4 owners

Objections

  • None, really. Seems like a logical step for iOS.

Judgment: It’s hard to predict future iOS features, but more beefy voice controls are probably on the road map.