As Apple prepares for its 2012 Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, new parts and components for a sixth-generation iPhone have surfaced on the Internet, specifically via unofficial Apple website 9 to 5 Mac.
The images sent from the repair experts at iFixyouri, which show the faceplates and backplates for a new black and white iPhone, appear to be legitimate. These designs don't look like doctored images, and they align well with previous trusted reports of the phone.
This could be the long-delayed iPhone 5.
The pictures themselves may not be groundbreaking, but a breakdown of the features gives a better picture of what's new in Apple's next iPhone model:
Metal Back: The iPhone 4S features a back made of all glass, but the new photos from iFixyouri show black and white iPhones with much of the back encased in metal. It's not clear what function the metal back serves -- if it's simply a style choice -- but all of the photos of the new iPhones include these metal portions on the back. There's a slight chance that the metal back could help improve call reception, given that the metal trim along the sides is molded into the metal backplates, giving it a unibody feel. However, this is not the liquidmetal back that some hoped for, which is a technology that is still some years away; this back is likely made from a piece of aluminum alloy.
Smaller Dock Connector: As predicted earlier by 9 to 5 Mac, Apple wants smaller dock connectors for its iPhones, and the newly released iPhone 5 models only confirm this.
Migrated FaceTime Camera: To better mirror the faceplate of the iPod Touch, Apple has apparently moved the FaceTime camera from the left of the earpiece to above the earpiece itself. Moving the camera likely frees up more space to include more parts and components like LTE and NFC chips, but it also makes the iPhone more symmetrical and appealing.
Migrated Earphone Jack: Photos of the new iPhone show the earphone jack, which has traditionally been located on the top right corner of the phone, has migrated to the bottom left corner of the device. This design change aligns perfectly with a May 14 report from Hong Kong-based components supplier SW-Box, which claimed to have acquired a new headphone jack, ear speaker, and Wi-Fi cable part for a new iPhone. SW-Box's audio components would fit perfectly within the new design released by iFixyouri and 9 to 5 Mac.
Redesigned Speaker Grills: The speakers on the bottom have been expanded and redesigned in the new iPhone model. Now that the dock connector from the iPhone 4 and 4S has been shrunk down, Apple has more room to create bigger and louder speakers.
Camera Opening: Photos of the released iPhone show a subtle but interesting difference to the camera infrastructure: On the rear panels of the black and white iPhone models, there is now a small space between the camera lens and the LED flash. Looking at the inside of that space, there appears to be a tiny object that occupies the opening, which could be a small microphone to help with capture higher-quality audio when recording video.
Following the release of the alleged iPhone parts, the Cydia Blog released what it said is a complete schematic of the new iPhone model, which matches perfectly with the front and rear plates acquired by 9 to 5 Mac. The schematics, which may or not be legitimate, show the same migrated camera and earphone jack from the photos, and they also describe a bigger display.
The schematic says the new iPhone's display would measure 90.1 mm (3.55 inches) high and 51.42 mm (2.02 inches) wide, but those measurements would result in an iPhone that is considerably shorter (115.2 mm, or 4.5 inches tall) and more narrow (58.6 mm, or 2.31 inches wide) than the iPhone 4S. The screen specs align well with 9 to 5 Mac's earlier report of an iPhone 5 prototype, which was said to have a new screen that measured 3.45 inches tall and 1.94 inches wide to create a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is perfect for playing videos at their native resolutions.
The Most Important And The Best Work We've Done
On May 23, during his visit to England for his official knighting, Apple's senior VP of industrial design Jony Ive was asked by The Telegraph what project he would like to be remembered by. Even though Ive is behind some of Apple's most famous product designs, including the iPod, iPhone and the Sunflower iMac, the design guru said Apple's current project could be his finest hour.
It's a really tough [question], Ive said. A lot does seem to come back to the fact that what we're working on now feels like the most important and the best work we've done, and so it would be what we're working on right now, which of course I can't tell you about.
Nobody should be surprised by Ive's discretion. Apple is extremely secretive about its products in the pipeline: In fact, Ive only lets select employees inside the design studio, located on the ground floor of Two Infinite Loop in Cupertino, Calif., which is completely protected by tinted windows, and a heavy, locked door. But his hint definitely made Apple fans ask: What could this project be?
While new MacBook Pro laptops are expected to debut at WWDC in June, something about Ive's comments makes it seem like this isn't the killer project he was talking about. Given the multitude of potential features Apple could include from its lengthy list of recently granted patents, it would be fitting if the iPhone 5 was Ive's best work.
Only Ive would feel truly proud of a product that can fit so much technology into the palm of your hand, and the iPhone 5 looks to come with yet more groundbreaking technology.
Possible iPhone 5 Features
Apple-Made Maps App. The first iPhone launched in 2007 with a maps application from Google, which helped users find local businesses, find their own location, and get directions. Five years later, Apple is looking to introduce a new in-house application, which will be made from the technologies of three acquired mapping companies, including Placebace, Poly9, and C3 Technologies, which were purchased in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively. The new application promises extremely detailed 3D maps, 2D maps and street views, and more information about traffic and location data. According to 9 to 5 Mac, Apple will introduce the new Maps application as a part of iOS 6 at WWDC, but the company could also wait to specifically release Maps alongside a wholly new phone.
LTE connectivity. It's already a foregone conclusion that Apple will implement radio bands for 4G LTE in the iPhone 5, given that Apple introduced the high-speed network on its new iPad, released on March 16, which was likely done as a practice run.
LTE features significantly higher download and upload speeds compared to 3G technologies, but previous implementations of LTE in smartphones tended to ravage battery life, which was a major complaint from users. If Apple wanted LTE in the iPhone 4S at the time, it would have been forced to increase the phone's thickness to accommodate a larger circuit board and a bigger battery. As Apple CEO Tim Cook noted in a company earnings conference call in April 2011, first-generation LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises.
Back in March, Qualcomm recently unveiled the fifth iteration of its new chip, which supports TD-SCDMA, TD-LTE, HSPA+, EV-DO, embedded GPS, and LTE on TDD and FDD networks worldwide. The chip works with Android and Windows 8 devices, but there's an excellent chance this will be the same chip inside the iPhone 5.
Crack-Proof Glass. Apple's patent for crack-resistant glass, granted on Nov. 15, uses the same alumino silicate glass solution used in the iPhone 4 and 4S, but chemically treats it with potassium and sodium ions to achieve greater compression thresholds on the surface and edges of the glass, making it less susceptible to cracks.
Apple also included a handy feature that will appeal to everyone who's ever dropped their iPhone: The patent calls for a shock mount to be placed between the glass and the body of the device, which will instantly inflate if the device senses it's falling. If the iPhone's internal accelerometer senses it's falling, an actuator within the device sucks in the cover glass as it accelerates to the ground, protecting it from damage.
Advanced Haptics. Another recently published Apple patent describes a new haptics feedback system that allows a user to interact with the content on the screen by touching it, which is accomplished with sensors and actuators working simultaneously. The new multi-tiered system is extremely sophisticated: Using several layers of elastic screens stacked on top of each other, Apple's screen can produce 3D buttons or objects to interact with, as well as give texture to images, like topographical maps.
Apple's haptic system can create different types of actions, including vibration, net displacement, bending, deforming, or any combination of those elements. The technology can also work with a secondary display screen or audio system, which would be useful if Apple ever builds its iTV, but the system can also be applied to flexible organic light emitting diode (OLED) screens. This advanced haptics system would also work with almost every portable Apple device, including iPhones, iPod Touch devices, iPads, MacBooks, and even TVs, video projectors and e-Ink displays.
3D Photography. While existing 3D cameras and video recorders can gather three-dimensional information from objects, they're generally incapable of getting detailed enough information in relation to the shapes, surfaces and depth of the objects. Apple's solution involves a series of systems, tools and methods to capture a 3D image by using multiple sensors and cameras. One sensor would capture a polarizing image, while two other sensors would capture two different non-polarizing images, and Apple's system would combine the images into a composite.
3D Object Recognition. On May 10, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a series of Apple patents relating to 3D face and object recognition technology. Apple's system involves taking a picture -- either with a front or rear camera -- and the 3D recognition software would distinguish between the two-dimensional projection of the image and the three-dimensional shape of the objects in the image. The process would be fully automatic, which would help for identifying faces in a group of objects, or even identifying objects in X-ray images.
NFC. Near-Field Communication is nothing new. In fact, many current smartphones have the chip built-in so owners can use mobile payments solutions like Google Pay. Apple has held off on implementing NFC technology into its iPhone, but a slew of recently granted patents seem to suggest that will change with the sixth-generation model. Two of the major features said to use NFC rather heavily are the iWallet, and iTunes Gifting.
The iWallet. Apple won a major patent on March 6 for a piece of technology called the iWallet, which is a digital system that gives users complete control over their subsidiary financial accounts on their iPhones, and also leverages Near-Field Communication technology to complete credit card transactions directly on the phone as well. The iWallet has many different features, including giving users the ability to see their entire credit card profiles, view statements and messages from their banks, and even set parental controls for their children, should they also want to use their iPhones as digital wallets. Outside of the iPhone, users can keep track of their payments and statements within the iTunes billing system, which keeps credit card information and records safe and secure. There's a possibility that iWallet could also work with other Apple utilities, which could allow users to buy things like movie tickets directly within the apps, but only time will tell with that one.
iTunes Gifting. While downloading and storing digital media with online service providers has become commonplace -- more so than purchasing DVDs and CDs at physical retail stores -- it's not very easy to transfer digital files from one individual to another, usually because of copyright laws. Apple believes it has a solution to this issue: A gift-giving platform where users have a standardized way for buying, sending and receiving media files from a media provider (iTunes) between multiple electronic devices (iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices). The process is simply called, Gifting.
One method for gifting requires the sender to authorize a gift charge to their iTunes account, which is then transmitted from the sender's device to the receiver's device -- via tapping, or as long as they're nearby -- thanks to the NFC chip. If the recipient of the gift isn't nearby -- or you want it to be a surprise -- the gift-giver may submit an official request with iTunes, which then processes the request and charges the initiator's account for the given file. The patent also allows for multiple gifts to be sent in a single transaction, as well as certain customization options for the gifts -- including voice greetings and custom gift images, likely to conceal the gift's identity before the receipient opens it.
Apple Avatars. If you want to buy movies, apps, or any content through Apple's iTunes Store or App Store, Apple requires you have an Apple ID. Your Apple ID sticks with you in the company's Game Center, which keeps track of a user's achievements across purchased and downloaded games. But if this recently granted patent has any bearing on the immediate future, Apple users may soon get to make customizable Apple Avatars, which users would use to represent themselves within potential online or gaming environments. Apple users could create a 3D model of themselves, customizing features like hair, eyes, nose, and eyebrows, as well as other features and accessories. While avatars seem to be geared towards kids, it would actually help give users a source of identity while making the Apple brand -- and identification procedures -- a little more fun. Don't be surprised if Apple had Pixar's help on this one: Just look at the eyes.
Multi-Player Gaming. The iPhone 5 might also be the first phone to feature a new piece of software for multi-player gaming. On March 15, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that describes a system for multi-player gaming, which allows groups of people to play the same game together and even see it from different perspectives according to the devices' physical relation to one another. The system actually mimics that of the Find My Friends app, in which a user's device detects other nearby devices that it recognizes as friends, and invites them all to join a common application. The technology also determines the relative position of those devices, so some games -- like turn-based role-playing games or card games -- can be played in a specific order.
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Are you looking forward to the iPhone 5? Do the released parts and schematics excite you? Are you disappointed? Let us know in the comments section below.