Contrary to a recent report that said Apple had decided upon a 4.6-inch screen for its next-gen iPhone, iMore's editor-in-chief Rene Ritchie now believes the iPhone 5 will retain the current 3.5-inch screen -- the same size as all previous generation iPhones -- but add a few new features before it's released in October 2012.
Ritchie has a solid track record with accurate reporting, particularly with Apple news and release dates. Last August, Ritchie correctly reported Apple's next iPhone would be unveiled in the first week of October and would be called iPhone 4S. At the time, all others called the speculative device the iPhone 5. He also correctly pegged the new iPad's unveiling on March 7.
Previous reports have said Apple would release the new iPhone in October 2012, and Ritchie still believes this is the case for multiple reasons.
While going from the iPhone 4 in June 2010 to the iPhone 4S in October 2011 was a longer wait than previous generations, a new iPhone release in June of 2012 would create the opposite problem -- only 9 months between iPhones, Ritchie said. That's not entirely dissimilar to the period of time between the Verizon iPhone 4 launch in February of 2011 and the cross-carrier iPhone 4S launch in October of the same year, but that was a unique circumstance. Apple has shown they can earn significant revenue on their flagship devices even when they've been on the market for over a year. They probably don't want to unnecessarily shorten that shelf life.
As far as the screen size goes, while Ritchie believes the iPhone could get a little bigger, he said that the iPhone will not be nearly as big as those 4.5-inch-plus Android smartphones. However, Apple is reportedly working to replace the 30-pin dock connector with a micro dock, which would allow for more room for other components like a bigger battery, or 4G LTE bands, or even an NFC chip. (More on those last two chips later.)
Ritchie also adds that, as many expect, the iPhone 5 will be compatible with high-speed 4G LTE. Analysts believe Apple attempted to implement LTE into the iPhone 4S, but failed. Apple has reportedly solved these problems, as the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has already implemented the high-speed long-term evolution network into its new iPad (with a little help from Qualcomm).
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. Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a company earnings conference call in April 2011, said first-generation LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises.
The iPhone 4 PCB [printed circuit board] is already incredibly small, not leaving any room for an extra chip to enable LTE without shrinking the size of the battery, said Anand Shimpi, a chip expert and CEO of Anandtech.
Fortunately, 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 a high degree of likelihood that this will be the same chip inside the iPhone 5.
Apple was reportedly getting ready to begin production on the iPhone 5 in January. A source from within China's Foxconn manufacturing plant told 9 to 5 Mac that various sample iPhone 5 prototypes were floating around the factory floor, but there were a number of common features among the phones, including a display that measured at least 4 inches, and a longer and wider form factor that did not match that of the iPhone 4 or 4S. The Foxconn sources believed the iPhone 5 would retain the rectangular shape of its predecessors, but Ciccarese is holding out hope for the thinner teardrop design.
Previous reports said the iPhone 5 will also feature an improved version of Siri, the voice-activated AI system that was only released as a beta in the iPhone 4S, as well as a bigger screen. In November, Hitachi and Sony reportedly began shipping 4-inch LCD panels for final production of new iOS devices believed to be the next-generation iPhone. Upgrading the iPhone's 3.5-inch screen to a 4-inch display would require a rebuilt Retina Display, but a bigger screen would help Apple compete against phone makers that make bigger screens, such as Samsung, while also providing a more immersive iPhone experience.
Before Apple unveiled the iPhone 4S on Oct. 4, the Internet was flooded with photos of a thin, large-screen iPhone 4. The photos were widely believed to be doctored until one Chinese site discovered mold engineerings of an iPhone 4 with a noticeably larger screen. The renderings depicted an edge-to-edge design for the iPhone's screen, which looked to measure about 3.7 inches. Component industry trackers believed that the images represented Apple's wish to compete with rival devices with bigger screens.
Apple's next iPhone may also include a number of the company's recently granted patents. 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 (NFC) 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.
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 asystem 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 device's 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 to all join a common application. The unique 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.
The best patent of them all, however, may be Apple's patent for crack-resistant glass, granted on Nov. 15. Basically, the crack-resistant glass solution utilizes the same alumino silicate glass used in the iPhone 4 and 4S, but by chemically treating it with potassium and sodium ions, the glass can then achieve greater compression thresholds on the surface and edges of the glass, making it less susceptible to cracks. The patent also involves a shock mount between the glass and the body of the device that will instantly inflate if the device senses it's falling, which is determined by the device's internal accelerometer. An actuator within the device sucks in the cover glass as it accelerates to the ground, protecting it from damage.
If Apple waits until the fall to release the iPhone 5, it may unveil its next-gen smartphone alongside a smaller, 8-inch iPad, which is also expected to debut in October. The original report from Apple's Taiwanese supply chain was later confirmed by The Wall Street Journal, which said Apple is working on an 8-inch iPad.
On Jan. 24, Cook released Apple's record-breaking Q1 2012 earnings, announcing $46.33 billion in overall earnings, $13.1 billion in profit and $17.5 billion in cash for the quarter that ended Dec. 31, 2011. In the last 14 weeks of the year, Apple sold 37 million iPhones, 15.4 million iPads and 5.2 million Macs.
We're thrilled with our outstanding results and record-breaking sales of iPhones, iPads and Macs, Cook said. Apple's momentum is incredibly strong, and we have some amazing new products in the pipeline.