Rumor Patrol: Apple And The iPhone 5

Apple’s next iPhone is imminent (or is it?), so the rumor mill is spinning up to high speeds again … here are the most interesting bits and the results of our submitting them to the sniff test.

iPhone 5 design


iPhone 5 Release Date

A source inside Apple has indicated to Fast Company that the iPhone 5 launch event may be in the week of the September 19th, or possibly the 26th–giving a short period for pre-orders before the device is launched in multiple countries at once on a date in the first week of October (a rumor that’s increasingly been believable).

Speculation about the release date has reached fever pitch, and Deutsche Telecom has taken the extraordinary step of announcing a pre-order service without having official confirmation of the delivery date to give to its customers. Meanwhile, in the U.S. a leaked memo from Best Buy indicates that the global release may indeed be happening in the first week of October, and staff should prepare themselves for pre-orders imminently. The fact that the U.S. carrier Sprint is associated with this leak (and a few other bits of information) hint that the iPhone is going to be arriving on many more U.S. carriers than before, following the sales model Apple uses elsewhere around the world–and it’s fueled debate about how this reflects on Sprint’s future fortunes as well as its legal case against the AT&T-T-Mobile merger.

This rumor: Looking more concrete as the hours go by.

iPhone 5 Hardware


Last week the leak of an icon from inside a developer version of iOS 5, coupled with the fact Apple is fastidious about detail in its icons, gave the first official confirmation the iPhone 5 would have a different design–as we’d long suspected. Though we don’t know the materials involved, the phone’s screen does extend closer to the edges and appears to take up much more area on the device’s face, to the extent the home button may be squeezed into a more lozenge shape at the base of the phone.

At this point, it wasn’t clear if the phone would have a slightly larger screen and a smaller body than the iPhone 4, or was simply a much larger device altogether. This week some engineering drawings for case designs, and a simple photo of an iPhone 4 in a case destined for an iPhone 5, seem to have decided this rumor: The iPhone 5 is wider, much thinner, and does have a significantly bigger screen than the iPhone 4. Its frame has a slight taper, which suggests Apple’s evolved its design to mirror devices like the MacBook Air (which could again hint at an rumored all-metal construction–especially if a patent for a clever antenna window is considered).

We also heard several stories about the hardware makers for the phone’s 8-megapixel camera, and today there’s supposedly a leaked photo available–with details about the phone and its imaging unit allegedly contained in the EXIF data. We’re taking this one with a pinch of salt, but if it’s true then the phone will have almost point-and-shoot camera powers.

These rumors: Highly believable.


iPhone Lite?

In all the excitement about the iPhone 5, there’s been less news about the expected “iPhone Lite” which may, or may not, be called the “iPhone 4S.” A leaked chassis was recently revealed via a Chinese manufacturer, and it seems to suggest Apple is making a phone that’s a variation on the iPhone 4’s design, with a slightly tweaked antenna that’s borrowed from the Verizon CDMA version with the addition of a SIM tray. This suggests the phone is going to be a “world phone” that’s compatible with many phone systems around the globe, matching with Apple’s preference to keep its production systems simple.

But if Apple is adjusting the phone’s hardware, then it’s possible that it may also be adjusting the screen and CPU too, and that’s led to confusion as to whether this iPhone 4 redesign is the iPhone Lite or the iPhone 5. Given revelations about the iPhone 5’s size–we’re guessing the premium device is the one with the bigger screen. One of the devices, we’re not sure which, also got it’s FCC certification number recently.

This rumor: Open to question.

iOS 5 Features, Including Speech Recognition


Apple is gearing up to launch the refreshed iPhone software, iOS 5, and as more developer editions are released then we learn more about the OS’s powers: Recently it’s been confirmed that Nuance’s text-to-speech and speech recognition powers are wired throughout the phone, transforming its limited speech control into an almost human level of understanding. That’s prompted speculation that Siri’s amazing personal digital assistant tech is also going to be powering many of the phone’s features, bringing a degree of artificial intelligence to the way the iPhone will behave.

iOS 5 also sports a feature called “Shortcuts” that works similarly to one in Mac OS X, recognizing strings of text that a user has entered (perhaps by voice command) and automatically expanding them to pre-defined words or phrases. Rumor has it that the feature is referred to as “The Kutcher” by Apple staff, reflecting the apparent influence Ashton Kutcher has inside the firm, and an in-joke on Two And A Half Men.

These rumors: Very real.

Find My Friends


We’ve suspected Apple will extend the Find My iPhone powers in iOS 5, and now there’s mounting evidence that Apple is going to include a “Find My Friends” social networking system into its phones. This is based on code fragments that suggest friends get to approve whether they’re findable, and it could leverage the deep integration of Twitter throughout the code.

This rumor: Very possible.

iPad 3

The iPad 3 was rumored to be hitting this year, but a suspected official leak to the Wall Street Journal seems to have put paid to that idea. The device is now expected in early 2012, and is still rumored to have a four-times-greater screen resolution than the iPad currently has. New rumors, based on lithium-ion battery technology leaking from Apple’s supply chain, suggest it may also be thinner and even lighter than the iPad 2–which itself was thinner and lighter than the iPad 1 to address some of its criticisms. The iPad 3 based on these rumors would be a huge challenge to Samsung, and Amazon.

This rumor: Lovely if true, but still far from confirmed.

About the author

I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise. I've also got a PhD, and worked in such roles as professional scientist and theater technician...thankfully avoiding jobs like bodyguard and chicken shed-cleaner (bonus points if you get that reference!)