With Apple gearing up for the grand release of its highly anticipated next generation iPhone, enormous hype surrounds the smartphone with rumors confounding customers about when the device will finally be launched and what the features will be on board.

Some earlier reports said Apple would launch iPhone 5 at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June this year. The reports suggested that the June launch of the next iPhone would bring an end to an eight-month-long life span of the current iPhone 4S. But recent rumors suggested that Apple might launch the device in the second half of 2012. The Cupertino tech giant might abandon mid-year launches and consider a 12-month iPhone upgrade cycle starting in the fall.

When it comes to the features of the phone, rumors are spreading like wildfire. The reports of Apple's new patent filing have also added much to the rumor mill which keeps on growing continuously. Here're some details about three Apple patent applications filed in the US Patent and Trademark Office which might turn up as key features in future iDevices like iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

3D Cameras That Could Also Recognize Facial Expressions and Gesturing

According to the new patent application, detailed by Patently Apple, Apple has invented a killer 3D imaging camera that will apply to both still photography and video. The new cameras in development will utilize new depth-detection sensors such as LIDAR, RADAR and Laser that will create stereo disparity maps in creating 3D imagery. Additionally, the cameras will use advanced chrominance and luminance Sensors for superior color accuracy.

Additionally, the new 3D cameras could also recognize facial expressions and gesturing. With the knack to both capture and recreate 3D images, the new imaging system could enhance the imaging capabilities of the 5 megapixel iSight camera on the new iPad and the 8 megapixel camera found on the iPhone 4S, said an iDownloadBlog report.

The PA report described the facial and gesture recognition functionality like this:

Facial gestures may include, but are not limited to, smiling, grimacing, frowning, winking, and so on and so forth. In one embodiment, this may be accomplished by detecting the orientation of various facial muscles using surface geometry data, such as the mouth, eyes, nose, forehead, cheeks, and so on, and correlating the detected orientations with various gestures.

Despite creating a 3D digital model of an object by taking video or photographs of it, the camera would also allow users to create a 3D model of their home by shooting video while walking through it. According to the report, a user may take video of a home while walking through the home and the image sensing device could use the calculated depth and surface detail information to create a three-dimensional model of the home. The depth and surface detail information of multiple photographs or video stills may then be matched to construct a seamless composite three-dimensional model that combines the surface detail and depth from each of the photos or video.

Rumors about Apple planning to incorporate a 3D camera in the next iPhone have been around for a quite some time now. Many reports have also suggested that the iPhone 5 may feature an 8 megapixel (or even higher) camera given that rivaling Android smartphones are increasingly coming with much improved cameras.

Universal Remote Functionalities to Control TVs

Another recent report from Patently Apple said that Apple might offer a universal remote control feature to upcoming iPhones and possibly iPads. The report was based on an Apple patent application released by the US patent office for a remote control device that is configurable to gather state information from controlled components.

The report explained that the remote control may have one or more cameras, microphones and/or other sensors. The sensors may be configured to operate upon actuation of the remote control device to determine if signals transmitted by the remote control were received and a desired result was achieved.

The report speculated that the feature is likely to be integrated into a future iPhone (or other iOS device) instead of it being an add-on app at the App Store. The advanced features being added to Apple remote could be signaling their preparation for a standalone HDTV as it's to control a television and other related entertainment devices.

You take a photo of your current TV remote and it sends it to iCloud for analysis. It then sends a 'virtual copy' of your remote, functionality and all, to your iPhone, the report said explaining how the new patent would work once it's integrated in the upcoming iPads and iPhones.

In the application, Apple described the use of the iPhone as a self-configuring universal remote for home entertainment systems. It acknowledged that the iPhone would also need to have IR transmission capabilities.

The PA report did mention that in the patent application, originally filed in Q3 2010, Apple stated that advanced universal remote controls may be capable of controlling not only home entertainment systems, including audio and video equipments, but also home automations systems like lighting, door locks and the like.

Ultrasonic Bonding to Make Apple's Next iPhone Stronger

One of the recent rumors to hit the iPhone 5 scene is about the device featuring ultrasonic bonding. According to Patently Apple, On March 15, 2012, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that refines an older 2008 patent on using Ultrasonic bonding in products like the 2009 metal back iPhone and current iPods.

Apple may have refined the process of ultrasonic bonding in their latest Apple TV and iPad designs where it's necessary to bring metal and plastic together to save on costs and to keep the devices lighter, the report added.

The report said that ultrasonic bonding could be useful for making stronger, more lasting bond than using adhesives to hold different materials together, i.e. in a phone casing. Various iPods and iPhones use covering having plastic parts that have been ultrasonically welded together. Seams and joins of plastic parts that have been ultrasonically welded together can also be quite aesthetically pleasing in comparison with some traditional metallic welds.

However, ultrasonic bonding can prove complicated because of the use of materials with two different melting points, like metal and plastic. This serves to limit the abilities of designers with respect to the materials that can be used in a particular design, such as for the housing and internal features or parts of an electronic device having complex internal features.

When it comes to compact portable devices like the iPhone, Apple's solution is to use a metallic surface that can withstand the flow of melted plastic into one or more surface irregularities therein, allowing a plastic item to ultrasonically bonded to a metal item.

Rumors are rife that the next iPhone will feature 4G LTE connectivity. After the Cupertino-based tech giant confirmed the 4G LTE inclusion in the new iPad, numerous unnamed sources have stated that the upcoming model of the iPhone will be launched later this year, featuring the same technology.

Other features that are likely to be added to iPhone include 3.7- to 4-inch Quantum Dot LED curved glass edge-to-edge display with 1280 x 720 resolutions (367ppi), a 1.2 to 1.5 GHz A6 processor with 1GB or more of RAM, Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, better battery life and an updated OS - may be iOS 6.