Citing an alleged source within Apple's supply chain who posted a report to Chinese microblog Sina Weibo, Brightwire claims Apple will launch the iPhone 5S, as well as a 5-inch "iPhone 6," in 2013.
"A source told Chinese mobile phone information site Laoyaoba.com that he has seen the iPhone 5S and iPhone 6 at Apple's suppliers," Brightwire translated. "Both models may be released in 2013, according to the website's microblog on Thursday evening."
The source said the iPhone 5S "resembles" the iPhone 5 -- it may even have an identical form factor -- but the 5-inch iPhone 6 is lighter and thinner.
It's possible the devices seen by this unnamed source are the same ones shown in these alleged photos from Foxconn, which were posted to a Chinese forum and uploaded to Chinese gadget blog Gizchina on Saturday morning.
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The leaked images show the alleged assembly line for the iPhone 5S, as well as close ups of the so-called iPhone 5 successor.
However, since these images are unconfirmed, it's possible that what you're seeing is actually just a production line for the iPhone 5, not the iPhone 5S or iPhone 6. Other pictures show the inside of the alleged iPhone 5S, showing off its chipsets and battery, and it looks extremely similar to the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5S is said to feature the same form factor of the iPhone 5, but with a few changes, particularly to the outside speaker grills; in these models, the grills look unchanged.
Could It All Be Bogus?
iPhone rumors are a dime a dozen -- after all, there's a lot of money to be had making up false reports about future Apple products. And in this particular case, we have no reason to believe this translated report is accurate, or even close to true.
The "Foxconn source" does note that Apple "may" release both iPhone 5 successors -- the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 6 -- in 2013, but this seems highly unlikely. Even though there are clear reasons for Apple shipping off a cheaper-made iPhone -- the company wants to make greater inroads in the Far East, particularly in China and India -- but many cannot think why Apple would want the iPhone 6 to be a larger, wider phone.
It's possible the alleged large-screen iPhone -- previously rumored as "iPhone+" or "iPhone Math" -- is Apple's ace in the hole against the growing number of large-screened Android phones. However, as Apple says many times in its advertising and its commercials, the iPhone 5's 4-inch screen is designed to the opposable thumb -- making it any larger would defeat the purpose. Apple may be investigating various form factors without plans to actually release one to the public.
More trustworthy sources don't believe this iPhone 5S/6 rumor at all. For one, trusted news site 9to5Mac says it "hasn't seen a credible source yet for a 5-inch iPhone," going so far as to blow up an image of the original "report" to show how much it basically looked like a bad Amazon.com review. Here's the actual text:
If you believe this particular source, you're entitled to; however, we believe we have much more accurate information about the iPhone 5 successors from much more reliable sources.
The iPhone 5 Successors: What We've Heard
What the alleged "source" saw within the factory could have been Apple experimenting with new sizes and shapes; according to Topeka Markets analyst Brian White, Apple is at least considering introducing the iPhone 5 successor in "multiple screen sizes" for a single model, which the company has never done before.
"Although Apple offers a 4-inch screen on the iPhone 5 and 3.5-inch screen on the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4, the company has never offered multiple screen sizes for a single model," White said. "We believe this is about to change with the next iPhone offering different screen sizes that we believe will allow Apple to better bifurcate the market and expand its reach."
According to two individual trusted reports -- one from iLounge editor-in-chief Jeremy Horwitz, and one from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, one of the very best in the business at predicting Apple's product pipeline --the iPhone 5S will get a processor bump to an Apple-built A7 chip, but Apple will make major additions to the iPhone's camera and flash -- “perhaps featuring Sony’s 13-megapixel sensor,” according to Horwitz.
While these rumored features be accurate, one of the biggest rumors we've heard has to do with the iPhone's signature home button, which is said to introduce an integrated fingerprint sensor for the next-generation, replacing the need for usernames and passwords on the phone.
A fingerprint sensor makes great logical sense for an iPhone feature: Unlike other smartphones with multiple buttons at the bottom, the iPhone has only one mechanical button on its face, which makes it exceedingly easy and intuitive for users to find and use this feature. Furthermore, given Apple’s urgency to acquire Florida-based AuthenTec last July (as noted in the company’s own filing to the SEC), there’s an excellent chance that we’ll see this unique feature in a soon-to-be-released iPhone -- hopefully the iPhone 5S or 6.
We’ve also heard that Apple is investing a great deal of time, energy and money on the display for its next-gen iPhone 5.
A Jan. 3 report released by the China Times said Apple might switch to a "Touch On Display" panel currently in development at Taiwan-based Innolux Corp., which has reportedly been licensed to use Sharp's proprietary IGZO display technology.
Whether or not Apple chooses Innolux specifically to make the screens for the Phone 5S or iPhone 6 screens, however, Apple is most likely going to feature Sharp's ultra-thin IGZO display technology in its iPhone 5 follow-up.
In late December, DigiTimes and Apple analyst Horace Dediu both mentioned Apple’s alleged investment in the ultra-thin IGZO displays produced by Sharp, predicting the inclusion of the technology in Apple’s next batch of iOS devices, including iPhones and iPads. Dediu also pointed to Apple’s recent $2.3 billion investment in “product tooling, manufacturing process equipment and infrastructure,” believing the cash was used to help bail out Sharp, which had been in financial straits in 2012. Sharp is reportedly going “all in” on IGZO technology, so it’s possible Apple saved Sharp to leverage its investment in the next generation of displays.
IGZO display technology is not only thin and tough, but it can even handle higher screen densities than Apple’s Retina display, which is visually stunning on its own. IGZO displays can reportedly handle display densities north of 330 ppi; for a quick comparison, the new iPad 4 can only achieve 264 ppi.
One of the advantages of IGZO display technology is its lower power consumption. Most Apple products, from the iPhone 5 to the iPad 4, require cartoonishly big batteries to achieve just eight hours of power -- this is because current-gen Retina displays are extremely power hungry. If Apple wanted its iPhone 5S or iPhone 6 to not only last longer during the day but also charge faster when plugged in, IGZO seems to be the way to go for the next generation of iOS devices.
Besides rumors about the display, however, there haven’t been too many other legitimate reports on the iPhone 6, but we have noticed a few interesting patents: A patent filed in March but published last September described tactile keyboards, flexible displays and laser microphones and speakers built into an iPhone, designed to conform to the user's needs. Flexible displays would allow for easier holding and typing, while the highly advanced tactile screens would create buttons when needed so users can feel "keyboard" letters as they type or touch the topography on Apple's Maps.
It's wishful thinking that Apple would include all these technologies in this year’s iPhone 5S or 6, rather implement them over time, but it's certainly fun to think about.
Apple sold 47.8 million iPhones and 22.9 million iPads in the quarter that ended Dec. 29, 2012.