With all of the iPhone rumors out there, kernels of truth abound. Let’s break down each bit
If you don’t have time for the play-by-play, here’s the best guesstimate of what’s to come:
A new iPhone will ship in October, available on AT&T and Verizon — and probably Sprint and T-Mobile, too. It may have a larger screen, but the screen’s resolution will be the same. There’s a chance it will be called the iPhone 4S, but it could just as easily be the iPhone 5.
Chances of the iPhone running on Verizon or Sprint’s 4G network are slim, but it probably will see improved speeds in certain T-Mobile and AT&T markets, even if Apple doesn’t go so far as to call it a “4G” phone.
Last, as usual, there will be a cheaper alternative, this year likely to be a specially made iPhone 4 with just 8GB of storage.
OK, so if you’re still reading, you want more nitty gritty, or some reasoning behind why I didn’t mention certain rumors. Partly, it’s Keyser Soze’s Law: “A rumor’s not a rumor that doesn’t die.” From experience with Apple, I can tell you that the most persistent of rumors, even the absurd ones, turn out to be true. Some of it is industry awareness: If the screen or network technology isn’t ready, it’s probably not gonna be in the iPhone.
So, for some applied soothsaying, let’s go item by item:
iPhone 5 or iPhone 4S? This naming thing is a bit tricky, but it seems like 4S is a strong contender. Generally, people view this as the difference between a fully new phone and a significant but undramatic update to the current phone. The 4S would make sense, since it would match the 3G-3GS name plan. On the flipside, it sends a signal to buyers that there’s something bigger coming later, and Apple hates doing that.
Sprint? T-Mobile? Talk about rumors that don’t die. There are lots of credible items about the coming availability of an iPhone on Sprint and — though Apple may not want to launch on a carrier that’s in the middle of a takeover — T-Mobile as well. There are no technical barriers to this happening now, so it’s just a matter of business. I believe it’s time, especially now that Apple is the underdog in the battle against Google’s Android.
Thinner body? Again, a moderate jump, like 3G to 3GS, requires no new design. So even if there’s a brand new processor, camera, network chipset — all very likely — the current iPhone 4 body could remain. But according to a piece last month in the Wall Street Journal, the next iPhone is not only “thinner and lighter,” but more challenging to mass-produce because of its size. But because the sources cited were component suppliers, it’s more of a 50/50 shot.
If it is thinner, it may look like the concept rendering shown in the embedded nowhereelse.fr YouTube video.
As for the other issues raised in the video, not to mention stuff that didn’t come up, keep reading.
Bigger screen? Another argument for a slightly modified body is the alleged 4-inch screen that the new iPhone will have. In short, if the screen gets bigger, the body design has to change to fit it. It may be subtle, an enlarging of the screen by reducing the bezel, but it will change the form.
Better resolution? As likely as a larger screen is, there’s probably not going to be a proportional increase in screen resolution. The current iPhone’s 3.5-inch screen has a resolution of 960×640. Even if it increases to 4 inches, the screen resolution is still much tighter than other industry-leading smartphones, such as the HTC Evo 3D, which has a 960×540 screen that’s even larger, at 4.3 inches.
Curved screen? Some have speculated that there would be one, possibly like the one on Google’s Samsung-built Nexus S. If it’s anything like that, the curvature will be almost imperceptible, so don’t get all excited either way.
8-megapixel camera? Yes. Not only are there lots of rumors about this, there’s basically no reason for it not to happen, and would keep Apple at the top of the phone-camera game.
Faster processor? The iPhone 4 has Apple’s A4 single-core processor. It is all but inevitable that the next iPhone will have the A5 dual-core processor, currently found in the iPad 2. It would speed things up, though most activities wouldn’t be noticeably smoother.
Near-field communication e-wallet? Though “NFC,” technology that would let you pay for stuff by holding your phone over a sensor, is a little far out, Apple has a vested interest in leading the, um, charge with mobile payments. iTunes is already a successful payment system, which is more than Google can say, and Google already has NFC in its flagship Nexus S phone.
4G, fake 4G or no 4G? So, quick crash course: Verizon and Sprint have technologies labeled 4G that are built on top of their 3G phone network. In both cases, the 4G networks are substantially faster, but coverage can be spotty. For T-Mobile and AT&T, the so-called “4G” that’s out there now can be fast, but it’s still technologically an upgrade to their 3G network.
The likeliest scenario is that the next iPhone will not have Verizon- or Sprint-flavored 4G, but — assuming the iPhone is even on T-Mobile — it will be able to access the speedier T-Mobile and AT&T networks where possible. I doubt Apple will call the phone 4G-capable, though, due to all the confusion.
Dual-mode? World phone? Avoiding under-the-hood talk, let me say this: It’s highly likely that the AT&T and Verizon iPhones will have the same cellular networking chips, probably from Qualcomm. It makes sense from a design and production point of view, and grants the Verizon (and, if available, Sprint) iPhone the chance to run on networks in Europe and Asia that currently only the AT&T phone can.
Budget iPhone? There’s long been talk of a “Nano” iPhone with less memory and a lower price tag, but the phone that always appeared in that slot was last year’s model. Now, it seems, Apple will build a special version of the iPhone 4 with a previously unavailable 8GB of storage, and this new/old model would sell for $99. I’m convinced of this.
“Cloud” phone? The cheap-phone rumor that’s harder to swallow is that there will be a “cloud iPhone” that has almost no internal storage, and runs everything out of the cloud. I dismiss this for two reasons: First, the cost alone of a constantly connected media-streaming phone would trump any up-front savings, and second, the whole point of Apple’s iCloud initiative is that all iPhones are cloud iPhones, so to single out only the cheapest model just makes no sense.