Rumor Patrol: The Lowdown On Upcoming Apple Gear [Updated]

As a September 12 launch date for iPhone 5 gets firmer, rumors about Apple's new products due in the Fall get bigger and bolder.

iPhone Parts

A huge number of components that are allegedly part of Apple's upcoming new iPhone have surfaced via Apple's Asian supplier chain--seemingly many more than we've seen for an unreleased iPhone. With so many pieces available from different sources, and all of them connecting together so well, it's pretty certain that they're genuine.

So what can we learn? It's pretty familiar--an evolution of the incredibly densely populated iPhone motherboard. There's some chatter about Apple using the newly approved nano-SIM card, but since the card is technologically the same as every other SIM it's not an interesting development.

Then there's talk of modified antenna connections offering proof that the next iPhone will be 4G. Makes sense that 4G will be present--it's not clear why the antenna changes are present since they may even point to the presence of NFC antennas.

The big take-away from these leaks is that Apple's phone is definitely en route and that despite Tim Cook's promise of even tighter Apple security, the information is still leaking out.

Launch Date

The date has been rumored since July, but now multiple sources (or possibly two different outlets relying on the same source) are pinning the launch date for the next iPhone, as well as the iPad mini, for September 12. Pre-orders would begin that day, with the U.S. release for later that month (September 21) and an international rollout in October.

The New Dock Connector

We've heard for a while that the new iPhone will be the first to use a newly designed dock connector, finally ditching the clunky, large iPod socket. Now there are photos of what's said to be the new connector, which sports eight parallel pins inside a very slender metal tine that itself acts as the ninth pin (probably the voltage ground point). There's a mirror set of connections on the other side, which could indicate 17 pins in total--nearly tallying with early rumors about a 19-pin version.

But what's really going on is that the plug can be inserted either way up, finally ending the awkward scrabble we all have to do to get the current plugs the right way up or even to get a micro USB socket inserted correctly--the new charger standard used on rival phones like the Galaxy S II. Apple's basically putting good user-friendly design ahead of other considerations.

iPhone Skinniness Confirmed

The new iPhone's back shell seems to be milled out of a single piece of metal, including the short bosses that are dotted across it so that the motherboard, battery and other pieces can be screwed down. The shell's design, strength and the thinner screen (as suggested by older rumors) means the phone may be up to a third thinner than the iPhone 4S.

It's a relatively minor detail, but what Apple's trying to do is make the phone feel thinner and smaller than earlier versions, though it's actually taller to fit in the larger 4-inch screen.

New Macs

We've been wondering when Apple will redesign its iMac, MacBook Pro, and Mac Pro computers, building in lessons from its MacBook Air line.

Now there's evidence, from code fragments inside the new Mountain Lion OS X release, that updates for these machines are coming. They may even lack optical drives, as we've long expected. A 13-inch Retina Pro model is even on the cards.

Is Apple Going To Release Everything At Once?

Some murmuring among Apple suppliers suggests that Apple may be about to proceed with the largest launch in history. The theory is that Apple will reveal the new iPhone alongside a new iPad Mini and a refreshed iPad design that has the new dock connector and a few other improvements. A new iPod touch may arrive too, and perhaps even the updated Macs.

We're not sure Apple would try this. It would leave the company's unreleased product locker looking pretty bare--not good for keeping it in the limelight. Releasing a few of the products at once makes more sense--we're guessing the new iPhone, iPod touch, and perhaps the iPad Mini (if it actually exists). The "refreshed" iPad will come early 2013 alongside the new version of the full-size tablet, and the new Macs could get a quiet release in the months at the end of this year.

Update

The September 12th date for Apple's event seems to get more and more reliable: Reports about the production of the new iPhone point at the launch on the 12th with availability around nine days later and a staggered international roll out after that. AT&T is now said to be gearing up for a sale in the third or fourth week of September, and is tying its staff to stores through October to ensure maximum sales possibility.

Meanwhile Apple's just been granted a new patent that covers clever in-screen capacitative touch sensing--something that's been long connected with Apple's R&D efforts. The idea is that circuits to sense fingertips will be built into the microelectronics of the LCD display itself, which allows for thinner screens, as well as cheaper and simpler assembly. The next iPhone is rumored to be thinner than its predecessors, and some of this is likely to come from screen tech improvements.

iPad "Mini" Leaks seemed to have calmed down, and shrewd observers will note that while we've seen a lot of iPhone part leaks, we've not seen any apparent iPad Mini components. But there's been a big resurgence of iPad Mini posts based on what seem to be leaked examples of the iPad Mini back shell--and an assumption that Apple's suppliers are concentrating on the iPhone and the Mini will come later (along with more leaked parts).

From what the hot rumors say, it seems the Mini will have the same 4:3 screen as current iPads but will have a smaller bezel and a rounded-edge aluminum back plate that's reminiscent of the original iPhone.

While we noted the lack of leaked iPad "mini" parts above, it seems like some key components may have at last hit the internet. The French site Nowhereelse.fr, which has leaked plausible Apple info before, has shown a group of parts that seem to be the dock connector and other wiring loops for the device. They're consistent with what we think is leaked new iPhone material in that they have the new dock port style, and they're much too large to be for the iPhone.

[Image: Flickr user twicepix]

Chat about this news with Kit Eaton on Twitter and[/url] Fast Company too.

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1 Comments

  • Alasdair

    Do we know when the iMac will be released and what features it will hold?
    Thanks.