Six years since its debut, the iPhone shows no signs of slowing in popularity. It is a market force unto itself. A pocket colossus. Consumers are clamoring for Apple’s flagship handset more than ever. And that means tech blogs and message boards are slinging pixelated rumors by the retina-displayful to satisfy the curious maw of Apple’s mob. Will it have a 4-inch display? Will it be 4G LTE? What about a built-in panini maker?*
It’s hard to know. But fear not: Gadget Lab has analyzed the rumors. Here’s what we expect to see during the company’s September 12 media event.
The Name: iPhone or iPhone 5?
Likelihood: 75 percent
The image in Apple’s September 12 event invite featured a large, looming number 5. But according to a fairly legit looking image on TechCrunch (originally published on iphoneiewsblog.nl), the box on the next iPhone takes a page out of the iPad’s book: It only says “The new iPhone.”
Although that photo looks pretty legit, our gut says it’s going to be called the iPhone 5, so we’re going with a 75 percent chance that the next iPhone will be called the “iPhone 5″ and not “the new iPhone.” Here’s why.
Look, Apple is not above seeding intentionally misleading information about its upcoming products. But it generally doesn’t pull that kind of stuff in its own event invites. And although many fussed that Apple would never label its sixth generation iPhone with the number 5, history indicates Apple doesn’t care: the second generation iPhone was the iPhone 3G, and the fifth generation iPhone was the 4S. Apple did simplify the naming scheme for the iPad this year, but with multiple iPhone models out on the market, it would lead to too much product confusion if Apple dropped the number from the iPhone name entirely right now.
A Larger Display
Likelihood: 100 percent
One of the first and most pervasive rumors surrounding the next iPhone is that it would have a larger 4-inch display. Chinese blog Apple.pro published purported photos of the front panel of the next iPhone in July, which show a larger, longer display. Prior to that, oft-correct iLounge published mockups of the next iPhone to be like, with a 4-inch diagonal display that later subsequent and images corroborate. Just a few days ago BGR reportedthat AT&T was stocking up on longer iPhone cases, as seen in the company’s internal accessory systems.We are putting all our chips on the table with this rumor, with a solid 100 percent chance of being true. The smartphone landscape has changed since the 3.5-inch iPhone display launched in 2007. With the proliferation of streaming video and mobile gaming, a larger smartphone display is a must. A larger iPhone just makes sense today. And with the wealth of photographic and anecdotal evidence to support it; this is a done deal.
Redesigned Dock Connector
Likelihood: 90 percent
Apple has used the same 30-pin dock connector for almost a decade now, since the 3rd-generation iPod. But that could be changing. In July, Reuters reported Apple would ditch the 30-pin connector for a smaller 19-pin dock connector. Then in early August, iLounge claimed its source said the new connector would be even smaller: with a mere 8-pins. A recent report from Forbes that suggested Apple would be the only supplier of dock connector adapters flip-flopped the rumor wheel back to a 19-pin spec.
Between strong reports and all the photo evidence of a redesigned dock connector, we give this rumor a 90 percent chance. The 30-pin connector is going bye-bye. However, the question remains: 8 pins or 19? We’re thinking 8-pin. Apple needs to future proof by going as small as possible. Plus, with the exception of Forbes, all of the recent rumors are pointing to an 8-pin solution.
Likelihood: 95 percent
Everyone thought the last iPhone would be 4G, and Apple ended up surprising us with a 3G phone that could achieve up to “4G speeds.” At this point, as Anandtech simply put it, “Support for LTE is simply requisite for a high-end smartphone.” Apple will be far behind the times if its next iPhone does not include 4G LTE.
We think there’s a 95 percent chance the next iPhone will be 4G LTE. Last year it made sense to leave it out. Apple’s not going to jump onboard with a technology that’s not widely supported. The first 4G phones only started popping up two years ago, largely on select Verizon and AT&T markets. But those networks coverage has grown greatly since then (and Sprint’s is expanding as well), which means enough of the nation is covered by 4G LTE today for Apple to go for it. Moreover, the third generation iPad, released earlier this year, already included 4G LTE connectivity, so it wouldn’t be Apple’s first 4G device.
Likelihood: 20 percent
When Apple announced Passbook in June, it meant one thing for certain: Apple intends to muscle into the mobile payments space. Passbook, which aggregates things like passes, tickets, and coupons, could easily also be used as an e-wallet. And a lot of people have assumed that’s going to mean Apple will include NFC in its next phone.
A recent purported image of the iPhone’s internals showed a “mystery chip” that some thought could be an NFC chip. A number of analysts also think Apple could include NFC in the next iPhone. Apple filed quite a few NFC-related patents over the past few years, too. Could now be the time?
We’d hazard that there’s about a 20 percent chance Apple will include NFC in this year’s iPhone. Why? NFC hasn’t proliferated among retailers yet. With few places to use NFC, what good is it? Apple could surprise us by announcing major partnerships in this space, like Nokia just did with the Lumia line’s wireless charging technology. But given that not a peep about that has been leaked indicates it’s not happening just yet.
Likelihood: 100, 40 percent
An improved processor is 100 percent guaranteed. There have been no signs of a new A6 processor, so the most likely scenario is that we will see the new iPhone utilize the same A5X processor introduced in the third-gen iPad, just as the iPhone 4S used the same A5 chip as the iPad 2.
An improved camera is also fairly typical — the iPhone 3GS had a 3-megapixel model, the iPhone 4 had a 5-megapixel shooter, the 4S had an 8-megapixel one. But this year, we haven’t heard much about the next iPhone’s camera, so it’s possible that upgrades could be minimal this year. The iPhone 4S remains one of the top cameras on the market. We’d say there’s a 40 percent chance Apple will up the megapixel count on the iPhone’s camera to 12, for instance. More likley, Apple could improve the software processing performed by its current camera chipset.
Likelihood: 90 percent
Just this past Friday, a “trusted source” at GottaBeMobile said you’ll be able to grab your own new iPhone on September 21. In August, a Verizon employee told TechCrunch about a vacation blackout September 21 through 30, which strongly suggests that’s when the iPhone could land.
We think there’s a 90 percent chance that September 21 will be the launch date. Last year, the iPhone 4S was released the second Friday after the event; if Apple followed the same pattern, which it often does, that would be… September 21.
New iPod Models
Likelihood: 99 percent
Last year, we saw minor iPod updates and no hardware changes. There hasn’t been a lot evidence to support one this year either — 9to5Mac expects a $50 iPod shuffle refresh, a new iPod nano (possibly with WiFi connectivity), and new iPod touches.
Yet with Apple’s fall media event historically being iPod-centric, we’d give a 99 percent chance that we’ll see iPod refreshes take the stage at some point early in the show. But we’ll admit we don’t know exactly what to expect from Apple on the iPod front, especially as many continue to shun MP3 players in favor of smartphones. One day, Apple will quite rolling out new iPods. But we don’t think that day has come quite yet.
Bonus Product Announcement: iPad Mini
Likelihood: 30 percent
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the iPad mini is the Apple rumor that just won’t die. It’s clearly a product Apple has been testing out, and based on recent signs like photos posted at GottaBeMobile and Apple.pro, it seems to actually exist in some form or another. Question is: Will we see it September 12, or some time later this year?
There are strong signs that iPad mini exists and is being tested, but we say there’s only a 30 percent> chance we’ll see it come Wednesday. We think it’d be more likely Apple would save it for its own special media event (as early as October), or perhaps even hold it until next year’s iPad announcements.
*The next iPhone will not have a built-in panini maker. But that would be delicious.