Tomorrow, Apple will hold a special event at the Yerba Buena Centre in San Francisco. Tim Cook, Phil Schiller, Scott Forstall, and other high profile Apple executives will take the stage. They will announce the iPhone 5.
This year has seen a gargantuan, unprecedented amount of leaked information about Apple’s next iPhone make its way onto the internet. We know what the iPhone will look like. We know what will be inside. We know what software it will run, and what features will be included. We know pretty much everything there is to know about the iPhone 5. At least, we think we know.
In fact, we thought we knew all about the iPhone 5 last year, too. But these most recent leaks we’ve seen reveal a very different iPhone 5 from the one we all came to know in 2011. The journey to this week’s announcement has been long and arduous, for the iPhone 5 itself has been a long time coming. In fact, chatter about the iPhone 5 began nearly 2 years ago.
October 2010: Talk of a forthcoming “iPhone 5” begins. Rumours swirl that, due to the iPhone 4’s antenna issues, Apple is pushing to release the iPhone 5 in January 2011 – just 7 months after it’s predecessor. To many, the rumours seem outlandish.
January 2011: January arrives with nary a sign of the “iPhone 5”. Engadget details three upcoming Apple products: the iPad 2, a new AppleTV, and the iPhone 5, which they say will be a completely redesigned device both externally and internally. Their AppleTV and iPad 2 information end up proving accurate, lending credence to their iPhone 5 details.
April 2011: After leaving Engadget, Joshua Topolsky writing for This is my next… (now The Verge) provides even more details about the iPhone 5, posting a mock-up of a “teardrop” shaped device. Along with the completely redesigned shell, Topolsky claims the new phone will include a 3.7″ Retina display and wireless charging.
April – October 2011: Apple chooses not to announce the 5th generation iPhone at WWDC in June, and rumors now point to a Fall launch. The teardrop design gains traction; schematics and cases leak by the dozen, and it seems all but confirmed that this redesigned device will be announced as the next iPhone. The excitement is palpable.
October 4 2011: Apple announces the iPhone 4S, a spec-bumped version of the iPhone 4. The teardrop iPhone 5 is nowhere to be seen, disappointing many. 9to5Mac posts a detailed account of what they believe happened to the teardrop iPhone 5. To this day, many people, myself included, believe the teardrop iPhone was (and possibly still is) a real product.
November 2011: The “real” iPhone 5 – codenamed 5,1 – makes its first appearance in iOS 5 log files.
December 2011: BGR reports that Apple will unveil a “completely redesigned” iPhone 5 in Fall 2012, complete with an aluminum back and plastic/rubber bezel to conceal the antennas.
January 2012: 9to5Mac reports that the iPhone 5 is ready for production, possibly hinting at a Summer launch.
March 2012: iLounge reports the first details on the 6th generation iPhone, claiming that Apple is experimenting with glass and ceramic shells, a larger screen, and a smaller dock connector.
April 2012: A Verge forum post by user modilwar demonstrates how Apple could retain the quality of the Retina display while increasing the size of the screen: make it taller, not wider.
May 2012: iLounge follows up with a new report, claiming that the new iPhone will feature a metal panel on the back, as well as a taller screen with a new aspect ratio, and a smaller dock connector.
May – September 2012: The “two-tone” iPhone 5 continues to leak. A group of leaked photos from iLabFactory shows off a fully assembled iPhone 5 with the new back panel, taller display, thinner design, repositioned headphone jack, and smaller 9-pin dock connector.
September 12 2012: Apple will announce the iPhone 5.
So after years of leaked information and photos, how is anyone supposed to know what to believe? Over time this cornucopia of rumours has distilled down to just a few that we now believe to be accurate. So what can we expect to see at tomorrow’s event?
The “2012” iPhone 5
Based on the most recent leaked photos, the iPhone 5 will feature a brand-new physical design, though not the teardrop shape leaked last year. The device will feature a unibody design, with a metal panel on the back that wraps around to the edges. On the back, two plastic (or possibly glass) windows – one near the top, the other at the bottom – will provide a pass-through for the wireless antennas.
The sides will remain virtually unchanged, with the same volume button and mute switch layout as the iPhone 4 and 4S. The headphone jack has been moved to the bottom of the phone, next to new perforated speakers and the new dock connector. Speaking of, the iPhone 5 will include a much smaller 9-pin dock connector on the bottom, which is expected to be orientation independent, meaning there is no right or wrong way to plug in the cable.
The device itself will be slightly taller to accommodate a larger display and larger battery. Thanks to a new process called in-cell touch, Apple has been able to craft a super thin display, which will make the device thinner overall. One other minor cosmetic change of note on the front is the repositioning of the FaceTime camera, which has been centred on the face just above the earpiece.
The screen will be a 4-inch, 16:9 display with a new resolution of 1136×640. Increasing just the height of the screen will allow Apple to retain the full 326ppi quality of the Retina display while providing users and developers with more screen real estate. Apple is expected to utilize Corning’s super strong Gorilla Glass 2, another factor at play in creating an even thinner touch panel. The 16:9 aspect ratio will lend itself particularly well to watching movies on the iPhone 5.
Perhaps the most obvious is the inclusion of 4G LTE connectivity. Apple tends to avoid technologies until they become mainstream, hence why the iPhone 4S only supported HSPA+. But the major carriers have all started building out their LTE networks, and Apple introduced LTE with the new iPad earlier this year. LTE for the iPhone 5 is, at this point, a no brainer.
One highly disputed point is whether or not the iPhone 5 will include an NFC chip. At this point, it is looking unlikely. As I said, Apple likes to wait for technologies to go mainstream before they adopt them, and NFC isn’t yet mainstream enough for Apple. Others have certainly tried – Google Wallet comes to mind – but I honestly couldn’t name a single store (at least in my area) where I could make an NFC payment with my phone. With the announcement of Passbook back at WWDC, I have no doubt Apple is looking at NFC. It will come, but not yet.
As for what will power the iPhone 5, there have been decidedly fewer leaks on the specs front. We previously reported that Apple was working on a quad-core A6 processor, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that chip make its debut in the iPhone 5. As for processing speed and RAM, expect the usual bump; Apple wants to ensure that developers will keep developing for iPhone first, and developers love processing power.
These details are safe bets. They’ve been reported by every reliable tech site out there, and the device outlined above is most likely what Apple will announce tomorrow. Then again, there is always the chance, however small, that none of these leaked photos are legit. Nothing is confirmed until we see Phil Schiller hold up an iPhone 5 on stage. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.
Regardless, this long and winding road, congested with leaks, rumours, and speculation, is finally coming to an end. Tomorrow, at 10AM EST, all will be revealed, and I for one couldn’t be more excited. The iPhone 5 has been a long time coming.