At a time when rumors surrounding Apple are mostly focused on a smaller and cheaper iPad, the so-called iPad mini, a new report surfaced Tuesday with photos of claimed iPhone 5 engineering samples that depicted a device in line with the ongoing rumors and speculations regarding the next generation Apple smartphone.

The news came from technology website GottaBeMobile, which said that it obtained exclusive photos of an iPhone 5 engineering sample straight from a factory in China. As per the photos, the highly anticipated smartphone would be slightly taller, thinner and about the same width as its predecessor, the iPhone 4S.

According to 9to5Mac, the samples that look to be more of a metal mock-up could end up being a case maker's mold. However, the possibility of actual engineering samples manufactured in Apple's supply chain can't be ignored at the same time. This case would lend more credence to the previously rumored taller design with a two-toned back, said the report.

iDownloadBlog reported that there had been a number of occasions over the last six months when two-toned case designs of iPhone 5 showed up, in everything from leaked parts to manufacturing schematics.

If this year's iPhone doesn't look anything like this, then someone (possibly even Apple) has pulled off quite an elaborate hoax, the reported added.

When it comes to the GottaBeMobile report, it said that the upcoming iPhone iteration would be the first significant iPhone redesign since the launch of the iPhone 4 in June 2010. The handset would be released later this year alongside the newly announced version of the Apple mobile operating system, iOS 6, said the report.

Here's what GottaBeMobile had to say, based on the claimed iPhone 5 engineering samples:

  • Although the new iPhone's design will be similar to that of iPhone 4S, it would feature a larger display thanks to its taller dimensions and smaller bezel.
  • The rear-facing camera will remain on the top-left of the back of the phone while the camera lens cutout will be about the same size as that of iPhone 4S.
  • A rear-facing microphone will be placed between the camera and the flash.
  • As can be seen in photos, there could be two materials on the back of iPhone 5. The middle part could possibly be made of metal, possibly even Liquidmetal, while the top and bottom of the device could feature glass, plastic, or something else entirely.
  • The purported iPhone 5 engineering samples show a device, which is over 120mm tall, compared to the 115.2mm iPhone 4S.
  • The width of the device is almost the same 58.6mm as that of iPhone 4S, suggesting that Apple is indeed working on a taller iPhone model, without a wider screen.
  • The next iPhone could possibly maintain the re-designed antenna layout from iPhone 4S.

The next iPhone model is highly expected to feature a much-improved processor. While some earlier reports suggested that the device would be powered by a new variant of the A5X processor, a recent report by DigiTimes said that Apple could launch its next-generation iPhone built on Samsung's Exynos 4 quad-core processor in the second half of this year.

Apart from that, rumors surrounding iPhone 5 say that the future flagship Apple phone will feature a larger 4-inch Retina display, 4G LTE technology, Near Field Communication (NFC) and a smaller dock connector. Other rumored features and specs also include 1GB RAM, iOS 6, improved Siri, liquidmetal casing, an 8 megapixel (or even higher) rear camera, a 2 megapixel front-facing camera for video chatting and a much-improved battery life.

As far as the release date of the device is concerned, the speculations are around betting on both September and October launch for the iPhone 5.

Analyst Shaw Wu of Sterne Agee said in a note to investors last month that Apple's next generation iPhone was expected to arrive in October, full 12 months after the release of iPhone 4S last October. On the other hand, J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz said last week that the device should be launched in September, ramping up production throughout the fourth quarter.