Media is ablaze with reports of what to expect from the next rendition of iPhone - the iPhone 5.

Multiple upgrades are surmised like NFC, an upgraded iOS 5 with cloud-integration, music streaming and voice interface.

However, Apple had already given a lead to forecasters as to what the next iPhone will carry at the time of launching the iPad 2 in March.

The other most important lead to predict the future iPhone 5's features is the competition in the current market. Post-CES 2011, HTC, Motorola and Samsung have launched some powerful and slender Android devices, which have set the critical minimum standard that Apple will have to reach to make a mark with its new iPhone 5.

Apple took its tablet rivals off-guard when it launched its slimmer, thinner and faster iPad 2. The major upgrades included cutting down the tablet's thickness to 0.34 inch, weight from 1.6 pounds to 1.3 pounds, a faster processor - dual-core 1GHz A5 system-on-a-chip (SoC), and adding two cameras.

The key feature that Apple will import from iPad 2 to iPhone 5 would be the A5 chip. Last year, when Apple launched its iPhone 4 in June 2010, it used the same chip, A4, that powered its tablet iPad which was launched in March 2010.

Also, the current breed of smartphones sports dual-core chips. Motorola Atrix is powered by a Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core chip, Samsung Galaxy S II sports a dual-core 1Ghz Orion chipset and HTC Thunderbolt features a Qualcomm 1GHz MSM8655 chip. Thus, Apple will certainly match the industry standard by fitting its iPhone 5 with its new dual-core 1GHz A5 chip.

In June 2010 when Apple launched its iPhone 4, it came with a major upgrade -- it augmented its erstwhile iPhone 3GS specifications. It also increased the screen resolution from iPhone 3GS's 480x320 to 960x640 in iPhone 4. Apple also increased the camera MP from iPhone 3GS 3MP to 5MP in iPhone 4.

In fact, Motorola Atrix offers a screen resolution of 960x540, while both Samsung Galaxy S2 and HTC Thunderbolt offer 800x480 in screen resolution. Thus, the current iPhone 4 trumps these phones with a 960x640 screen resolution, and Apple may with retain the same screen resolution for iPhone 5. Apple retained the same screen resolution in iPad 2 as the earlier iPad at 1024x768 even when competitors like Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 offered a higher screen resolution at 1280x800.

However, when it comes to thickness iPhone has competition from Samsung Galaxy S2 which is merely 8.5 mm (0.33 inch) thick while iPhone 4 is 9.3 mm (0.36 inch) thick. The other phones Motorola Atrix and HTC Thunderbolt are thicker than iPhone 4 at 10.95mm and 13mm. Recently, Apple slashed its iPad 2 to offer an ultra-thin iPad nad it Apple could further carry the slim factor into its iPhone 5. Apple has been progressively reducing its iPhone thickness; the iPhone 3G was 12.33mm thick while the iPhone 4 launched last year was 9.3mm thick.

Another area where Apple could be under pressure to make changes would be the display size. The iPhone 4 has a 3.5-inch display while Motorola Atrix sports a 4-inch display and both Samsung Galaxy 2 and HTC Thunderbolt have 4.3-inch displays. DigiTimes had reported that the iPhone 5 will sport a 4-inch display.

The iPhone 4 weighs 4.8 oz (137 grams) which is comparable to Motorola Atrix 4.8 oz and Samsung Galaxy S2's 4.9oz. However, the way Apple sliced iPad's weight bringing it down from 1.6 pounds to 1.3 pounds indicates that it may reduce iPhone 5's weight to outclass the rivals.

On the camera front, Samsung Galaxy S2 sports 8MP rear-facing and 2MP front-facing cameras, Motorola Atrix sports 5MP rear-facing and front-facing VGA cameras and HTC Thunderbolt offers 8MP rear and 1.3MP front-facing cameras. The iPhone 4 has 5MP rear and VGA front-facing cameras. It is possible that Apple may bump up the camera specifications to match its rivals now. The earlier iPhone 3G version had a 3MP camera which Apple increased to 5MP in iPhone 4.

Apart from the iOS5 upgrade which will power iPhone 5, it can be surmised that the iPhone 5 will be ergonomically enhanced like its kin iPad 2. Cult of Mac reported that iPhone 5 will have a flat metal back and will not use the back-glass enclosure found in iPhone 4. The metal used in the iPhone 5 is still unknown.

However, Apple had filed a patent for a technology that uses carbon fiber material for electronic devices in 2010. The patent titled Reinforced Device Housing claims a housing, comprising: a frame formed from a first material; a skin formed from the first material separately from the frame and bonded to the frame; wherein the skin is formed from multiple layers of the first material; and a portion of the skin covers at least a wall of the frame. The material in question is a fiber-in-matrix type material like carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP).

Other patents filed by Apple which could find their way into iPhone 5 include a patent for a technology that can interpret real-world gestures on touch and hover sensitive devices.

The technology details a method whereby real-world gestures like OK, grasp everything, stamp of approval, circle select X to delete, knock to inquire, hitchhiker directional gestures, and shape gestures can be interpreted by a touch device or a hover sensitive device.

Apple also received a patent for Magic Glove System which allows users to navigate on a touch screen without removing a glove.

Thus, apart from increased cloud-storage or music locker facility through Mobile Me service and NFC upgrades, the iPhone 5 will certainly be a smarter smartphone.