iPhone 5
Just a few days after a Chinese e-commerce platform surprised the tech world by accepting preorders for the next generation Apple iPhone, aka "iPhone 5," another report from Asia surfaced Saturday, saying that production of the highly anticipated smartphone has already begun and is expected to launch this fall. Martin Hajek

In the wake of the Chinese e-commerce platform surprising the tech world by accepting preorders for the next generation Apple iPhone, aka iPhone 5, another report from Asia surfaced Saturday saying that production of the highly anticipated smartphone has already begun and is expected to be launched this fall.

Japanese tech blog Macotakara (Google Translate), with a track record of being accurate in terms of Apple-related predictions in the past, reported citing reliable Chinese sources that the new iPhone has entered the manufacturing phase in China. The device would get significant design changes including the addition of glass to its uni-body backplate.

Macotakara said that the purported iPhone 5 back panels that leaked in May were early prototypes of the device, while the actual iPhone that's currently in production looks quite different from them. The blog also cited listings for the iPhone 5 cases on China's Alibaba.com in order to back up its claim.

Apple Insider noted that the claimed iPhone 5 production model sports a glass piece between the backplate's top and bottom edges without leaving a bare aluminum surface. Thus, it contrasts with the earlier reports that suggested a uni-body chassis featuring a two-tone all-metal design.

When it comes to earlier models, both the iPhone 4 and 4S featured a glass sandwich design with tough Gorilla Glass front and back coverings. On the other hand, the sixth generation iPhone will reportedly boast a backplate only partially covered by the tough material, which Apple Insider thinks, could be in response to a rumored screen size bump to a 4-inch Retina display with 16:9 aspect ratio.

By comparison, previous iPhones featured a 3.5-inch display with a 3:2 aspect ratio.

Meanwhile, rumors surrounding a smaller iPad are also gaining traction with a possible release date tipped for the latter half of this year. According to Redmond Pie, the 7.85-inch device, unofficially dubbed the iPad mini, is not likely to be released at the same time as the next iPhone, since one would overshadow the other, and budgets constraints would mean many consumers opting for either/or as opposed to both.

Highly Rumored Features Of The 'iPhone 5'

Rumors are rife that the next iPhone model will feature a much-improved processor. While some earlier reports suggested that the device would be powered by a new variant of the A5X processor, a recent report by DigiTimes said that Apple could launch its next-generation iPhone built on Samsung's Exynos 4 quad-core processor in the second half of this year.

Besides that, rumors surrounding the iPhone 5 say that the future flagship Apple phone will feature a larger 4-inch Retina display, 4G LTE technology, Near Field Communication (NFC) and a smaller dock connector. Other rumored features and specs also include 1GB RAM, iOS 6, improved Siri, liquidmetal casing, an 8 megapixel (or even higher) rear camera, a 2 megapixel front-facing camera for video chatting and a much-improved battery life.

As far as the release date of the device is concerned, the speculations are around betting on both September and October launch for the iPhone 5.

Analyst Shaw Wu of Sterne Agee said in a note to investors last month that Apple's next generation iPhone was expected to arrive in October, full 12 months after the release of the iPhone 4S last October. On the other hand, J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz said last week that the device should be launched in September, ramping up production throughout the fourth quarter.