April 11, 2012 at 11:27 AM ET
The release of the third-generation iPad gave us a (very) brief break from Apple gossip, but at this point the rumor mill's back in full motion again. The topic? The next-generation iPhone, of course.
Here's what we think we know about this upcoming device.
What will it be called?
It would be surprising if the next-generation iPhone is announced as anything other than the "new iPhone" when it is finally revealed to the world.
When Apple CEO Tim Cook showed off the third-generation iPad, he simply called it the "new iPad." A look at Apple's press release archive reveals similar references to other products ("new iMac," "new Apple TV," "new MacBook Pro" and so on), so the third-generation iPad's name makes utterly perfect sense — and is likely a blatant hint regarding the next-generation iPhone's name.
Calling it the "iPhone 5" would not only clash with Apple's main product naming strategy, but it would also be awkwardly inaccurate. The next-generation iPhone will be the sixth-generation device in the line, following the original iPhone, the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S. Dare we suggest iPhone 6? No, we dare not.
When will it arrive?
According to CNET, analyst Tavis McCourt of Morgan Keegan said the next-generation iPhone should arrive in the fall of this year. South Korea's Maeil Business Newspaper backs up this release date and explains that the head of human resources at Foxconn's Taiyuan factory said that the device will become available "around October." (Or at least that's how Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft translates the publication's claim.)
The folks at 9to5 Mac believe that the next-generation iPhone will hit store shelves far sooner than that though. According to them, a "reliable source at Foxconn in China" suggested that the device is set for a summer launch. Digitimes points out that "the Chinese-language Commercial Times quoted Daiwa Securities as indicating" that the gadget will be unveiled at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June.
The Magic 8 Ball on my desk keeps telling me to "ask again later." My best guess is that the next-generation iPhone will probably arrive in the late summer or early fall of this year. (And if I you held a gun to my head and forced me to pick one, I'd go with the fall — which would give the current, hot-selling 4S a full year to soak up the sales.)
How will it look?
Different, different, different.
While the iPhone 4S is virtually indistinguishable from its predecessor, the iPhone 4, most reports agree that the next-generation Apple smartphone will have a significantly different look. (Though 9to5 Mac does point out that Apple's likely testing the new device's guts in prior generation's casings "to throw off leaks," so don't be surprised if you hear if spy photos of a new iPhone with an old body appear at some point.)
Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White sent a note describing what he learned about the new iPhone while visiting tech suppliers in China and Taiwan, writes Business Insider's Jay Yarow: "This will be the most significant iPhone upgrade with a four-inch screen and a new, sleek look that we believe will require a unibody case."
The folks at iMore— who've nailed several Apple predictions in the past — disagree with White's prediction that the new iPhone will have a larger display. (Though they do hedge their bets and say that the detail isn't set in stone.) Reuters goes into the entirely opposite direction with a report that the new iPhone will use a ridiculously large 4.6-inch display.
What sort of guts will it have?
9to5 Mac's Mark Gurman says that prototype versions of the next-generation iPhone are rocking 1GB of RAM, and TechRadar's John McCann offers that Sony's new back-illuminated stacked CMOS image sensors would be perfect for the next-generation iPhone as they are ideal for super-slim phones (and the iPhone 4S uses some Sony camera technology already. And we certainly agree with iMore's Rene Ritchie, who suggests that the device will be 4G LTE compatible — just like the new iPad.
What did we learn?
I'm getting tired of quoting msnbc.com tech/sci editor Wilson Rothman each time I round up Apple rumors, but the man was right when he pointed out that Keyser Soze's Law tends to apply when it comes to Apple gossip: "A rumor's not a rumor that doesn't die."
This means that the particularly persistent rumors tend to be the ones which turn out to be true, even if, in this case, we'll be seeing last year's eagerly anticipated "iPhone 5" a year later than expected.
With that thought in mind, the educated guesses when it comes to the next-generation iPhone are that it will look quite different from the current model (time to buy new cases!) with a possibly larger screen; that it will be faster and will have support for 4G LTE connectivity (like the new iPad); and that it will arrive in the fall of this year.
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