Apple iPhone 6 Rumors: Leaked Photo Showcases Plastic Exterior, Redesigned Specs For 'Cheap' iPhone 5

 @redletterdave on April 23 2013 2:24 PM

Apple will reportedly break from tradition and release two new iPhone models in 2013, including the security-charged iPhone 5S and the cheaper-made iPhone 6; thanks to U.K.-based blogger Tactus, we may now know what the latter smartphone will look like upon its eventual release date.

Late last week, Tactus released a photo of what appears to be the rear shell for a plastic-made iPhone, claiming it to be the highly rumored iPhone 6. Here's the photo of the alleged iPhone 6:

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We reached out to Tactus to learn more about where this alleged shell came from -- whether it was leaked directly by one of Apple's many supply chains in Asia, or procured otherwise -- and we'll update this story as soon as we learn more.

"It looks like it features an all uniform plastic polycarbonate shell -- very different to the iPhone 5′s sleek aluminum look, but still modern and covetable," Tactus said in a blog post. "It’s also interesting to see that the plastic shell measures in at 0.4-0.6mm thick, however the actual phone might be around 9mm thick, 120mm in height and around 62-65mm in width, which means it’s likely both taller and wider than the iPhone 4/4s!

"It’s also rumoured it will have a 3.5 inch retina screen, much like the 4S, but not as big as the iPhone 5 -- a few more pennies saved with that compromise!"

Tactus, who started blogging in October, has become a new supplier of allegedly leaked iDevice photos. Last Tuesday, the blogger released photos of alleged cases for the next-generation iPad (aligning well with previously leaked iPad 5 cases), and on Monday released an actual alleged shell of the iPad 5, which is said to feature a thinner and stronger polycarbonate enclosure.

Regarding the iPhone 6, however, Tactus' alleged photo aligns well with previous rumors and reports about the phone's features and specs. iLounge editor-in-chief Jeremy Horwitz, who detailed in January what he called the "budget iPhone 5," described the iPhone 6 as a plastic iPhone 5 with several design tweaks.

“Yes, it will be made substantially from plastic,” Horwitz wrote, echoing an earlier DigiTimes report that said the iPhone 6 would feature a hybrid plastic-metal chassis. “No, it won’t just be a Retina- and Lightning-equipped refresh of the iPhone 3G or 3GS, Apple’s last plastic iPhones, nor will it look just like an all-plastic version of the iPhone 5. This new model is actually a cross between the iPhone 5, the fifth-generation iPod touch, and -- wait for it -- the iPod classic. Yes, really. It will have a 4-inch screen, like the iPhone 5, a bottom like the latest iPod touch and a shape that’s most similar to the iPod classic.”

Horwitz said the low-cost iPhone 6 will feature specs nearly identical to those in the iPhone 5, but will be "a half-millimeter taller and a half-millimeter wider," as well as a full millimeter thicker. 

While changes to the iPhone 5 dimensions in the iPhone 6 are minimal, Horwitz noted the biggest design change in the iPhone 6 will be its new curves.

“Apple’s budget housing looks closest to the iPod classic in shape, though not in materials,” Horwitz said. “Unlike the plastic iPhone 3G/3GS, which featured soft curves on all sides, the budget iPhone’s curves start and end at flat surfaces, so each side and the back are flat. This seems like a trivial change, until you realize that it allows Apple to use flat rather than curve-matched parts: The right side has a flat, centered SIM card tray just like the iPhone 5’s, while all of the buttons and ports are on flat rather than curved surfaces. A flat-backed iPhone won’t rock on a flat surface when it vibrates, either.”

The proportions of the iPhone 6 components are said to resemble those of the latest-generation iPod touch, with similar locations for the camera, microphone and rear flash, according to Horwitz. The bottom microphone, headphone jack, lightning dock and speaker are in the same locations as in the iPhone 5, but the new iPhone 6 is said to have an extra microphone on the bottom, as well as four individual holes for the speaker grill, rather than the 26 speaker holes at the bottom of the iPhone 5.

“In summary, the budget iPhone will look a lot like an iPhone 5 from the front, an iPod classic from the side and an iPod touch 5G on the bottom -- only made from plastic rather than glass or metal,” Horwitz concluded. “It won’t make any bold departures from past Apple designs, but then, it’s supposed to be an inexpensive iPhone and achieves that goal pretty much as expected.”

Considering the photos' uncanny resemblance to Horwitz's highly detailed description, we can say that if Apple plans on releasing a plastic iPhone 6, this is most likely what it will look like. It's possible the finished iPhone 6 will be a bit thinner and taller than the pictured mold above, but the overall design is both stylish enough to appeal to consumers, and it's a low-cost production option for Apple -- a win-win.

Although the bloggers agreed on the appearance of the iPhone 6, Tactus and iLounge's Horwitz disagreed on the phone's specs. Horwitz believes the next iPhone will feature an Apple-built A7 chip, while Tactus hears the budget iPhone will feature an A5 processor like the iPad mini, but with a 32nm die cast. Horwitz and Tactus also disagreed on the camera; Horwitz believes the iPhone 6 will integrate a new aperture and 13-megapixel lens, while Tactus says the cheap iPhone specs will include a "handy 5MP camera, again like the iPhone 4."

iPhone 6: Expected Release Date?

Tactus believes Apple will release the iPhone 6 on Oct. 15 and will sell the phone for $300, "or £229-£249." Apple may release the iPhone in October, but it's counterintuitive to set a low-cost iPhone at such a prohibitive price.

Other Apple analysts believe Apple will release the iPhone 6 earlier than October -- most believe the release date will arrive between June and September. Piper Jaffray analyst and perennial Apple bull, Gene Munster, believes Apple will release the iPhone 6 in September, while Barclays analyst Kirk Yang, and Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty, both pegged a dual release date schedule for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 5S between August and September 2013.

But among all Apple analysts, KGI Securities' Ming-Chi Kuo's opinion may mean the most, considering his impressive accuracy in predicting Apple's product pipeline in 2012. On Monday, he said Apple would likely delay the release date of the iPhone 5S to September, due to issues with producing the fingerprint sensor, so it's possible Apple would also delay the release of the iPhone 6 so both phones launch simultaneously. Kuo originally said in his 2013 roadmap that Apple would release the iPhone 5S and iPhone 6 at the same time in the "third quarter of 2013," which would be between June and September.

Apple will announce its second-quarter earnings after the close of trading on Tuesday. In its fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 29, the company sold 47.8 million iPhone units.

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