The Next iPhone: A New Look
Leaked information about the next iPhone has reached the web from a source considered reliable—because he correctly predicted many of the subtle changes of the iPad 3 having held one just before its launch. The chap in question is Jeremy Horowitz, editor of iLounge.com. He says the new phone will indeed be a radical overhaul in design, sporting a taller chassis and being skinnier in depth with an overall size of 125mm by 58.5mm by 7.4mm—a centimeter longer and 2mm thinner than the current one, which is about a 20% drop. It'll have Gorilla Glass 2 to protect its larger 4-inch screen that'll have a new aspect ratio. It'll have a flat metal back plate, and Apple will abandon the legacy iPod dock connector for a new smaller rounded port.
So...do we believe Horowitz has the goods? A bigger screen has been long predicted, and the skinniness is also plausible (see below). A size ratio change would annoy developers, but would represent a sensible move if the screen was to be bigger. The longer chassis then goes with the screen, and also allows for more space for a bigger battery. Gorilla Glass 2 is basically a given. And via PatentlyApple.com we know Apple recently patented a new thinner connector (which looks very well developed in the patent drawings).
The metal back? We've long suspected this and it would be a solution to smashed iPhone 4 woes. It could even be made of liquid metal. The person who invented this tech, exclusively licensed to Apple in 2010, has been in the news this week saying Apple would need a lot of money and time—at least a couple more years—to develop the tech to build a phone chassis from his invention (which has huge advantages in strength and weight over glass and steel). But a simple flat back to save space, weight and improve strength? That's possible. And it would again let Apple outclass its peers in terms of design progress built on clever supply-chain management.
We're about 75% behind this rumor, though the liquid metal aspect is much less likely.
The Secret To The Next iPhone's Skinny Size
It isn't a secret actually, but it's clever on two fronts: Apple's said to be using new "in-screen" touch sensors for the next iPhone's touchscreen. Currently it uses a bonded layer system where the touch sensors have their own substrate that has to be perfectly glued to the LCD unit—a complex process that can result in low yield and extra thickness. An in-screen sensor array means there's no need for an extra layer, so it can be much thinner and the screen production yield would rise—meaning Apple could either soak up the profits or actually drop the price. And the thinner screen depth allows for a smaller chassis, as well as bringing pixels closer to the surface for an even more impressive look to the user's eye.
We're 90% confident in this.
When We'll See The Next iPhone
October. There's a bit of chatter that Apple will reveal it at the WWDC in June, but that's just 8 months since the iPhone 4S arrived and would mean Apple's Chinese manufacturers were in rapid scale-up production right about now. There are not enough leaks to support this idea.
iPhone 6 Or Just... iPhone?
We're calling this based on a guess, and some history: The iPhone for 2012 will be just called iPhone. Like the new "iPad," and all the Macs.
No idea, no leaks, no extra information has surfaced. But an analyst at J.P. Morgan has said his firm's research doesn't support any supply-chain efforts to produce an Apple television set at this time. In his thinking the market won't be ready for an Apple television until at least 2013 or 2014.
This is plausible. But as we've noted before, analysts seem unable to move beyond their constrained fiscal thinking and understand Apple and its technological advances from a technical point of view. So while it's probably true that there's as yet no hint of production, it wouldn't take Apple long to rapidly scale up a prototype to a full device.
Yes, these are due a refresh and they were likely awaiting the new Intel Ivy Bridge chips, now available. It seems likely we can expect several design cues from the highly successful MacBook Air to arrive in the updated machines. And the chatter is that Apple may well phase out the 17-inch MacBook Pro, which is both expensive and generally appeals to a very limited kind of customer—designers and music professionals. Would Apple abandon these prized customers, though? Stay tuned (not to your Apple TV).
Update: Someone's Seen The Apple TV?
Blog Cult of Mac says it's been in contact with a source that has actually seen an Apple prototype television. The site trusts its source, but notes the person only sees products in prototype phases—meaning much of what they've seen remains unproduced because Apple chooses not to make it. That sounds like a convenient excuse, but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt because what they say they've seen sounds highly plausible: A TV that looks like a bigger, skinnier version of Apple's current LED displays. It has Siri built-in, and it's got a sophisticated FaceTime camera that can even track where people are in the room and zoom in on their faces.
This fits with stuff we've heard before about Siri. And, rather sweetly, it tallies with the fact that Apple bought a firm called Polar Rose back in 2010—a company that specialized in face tracking and recognition. That IP may have been demonstrated in the clever face-distorting effects available in Apple's newer Photo Booth app, and would also align perfectly with a TV-based (and thus static) camera for FaceTime or Skyping needs.
Update 2: iPad Minis...Again
Eastern-skewed tech blog Digitimes doesn't have the best reputation for predicting Apple tech news...but occasionally it gets things right thanks to its sources within Apple's supply chain. Now it's saying that Pegatron, one of Apple's key suppliers, has begun receiving orders for a next-generation iPhone and a next-gen 10-inch iPad. It's plausible that the next iPhone would be entering early production runs at this time, due to the refine-then-tweak process needed to get up to full speed in time in just 3 months ready for an October launch...but suggestions it's also putting new iPads into production are strange. That is until you learn Digitimes has heard Apple plans to bring the new iPad into play before the end of 2012.
The news is odd, but possible since Apple has adjusted the launch timings of its products recently. It was also said to be planning to bring the iPad 3 at the end of 2011, but a quality breakdown in the IGZO screen process by then-chosen partner Sharp forced a delay. In this light it's perfectly possible Apple would try this for the new iPad so that it could maximise sales in the lucrative Holiday season.
And then there's another rumor form Digitimes to think on: It says Foxconn has been chosen to get running with a 7-inch iPad in time for August. That time slot does fall between existing launch windows for Apple products, which would give the firm time to let it bathe in the PR limelight as much as possible. And we've heard many iPad "mini" rumors before.
We're skeptical on all of this, even though it's not beyond the pale. It'll take a few more leaked parts identifiably from the new hardware before we believe it.
Update 3: The Apple TV, and Apple Maps
Foxconn's boss Terry Gou has just said something extraordinary: He says his firm is making the Apple HDTV and though it's not in production yet his factories are busy spooling up ready to get it rolling off the lines. The remarks were apparently made during a press conference. Now this is Terry Gou, and if anyone would know what devices Foxconn is producing it's him, but he's also perfectly positioned to know that one doesn't leak Apple information. This is a mystery.
Meanwhile another rumor suggests Apple is finally breaking with Google regarding maps, and iOS6 will contain its own in-house mapping solution that has a rather fabulous 3-D viewing capability. This is completely in line with several earlier rumors, explains why Apple advertised for mapping experts, and even gives a home for the tech Apple owned when it bought mapping firms Poly9 and, possibly, C3 Technologies. It's quite definitely a reason Google is sweating Apple.
[Image: via Kit Eaton and iLounge.com]