It's just four days until Apple's "let's talk iPhone" press event, and we still don't know if we'll be seeing one new iPhone or two—and no idea if they're called 4S, 5, or just 4 and 4S. There's a good reason for this, namely Apple's strict code of silence, which must've been dialed up a notch or two since the inafmous Gizmodogate affair before the release of the iPhone 4 last year. There is, as you might imagine, a lot of discussion about this online, ranging from pure speculation to genuine hardware clues, so we've dug through the dross to find some diamonds for you.
The Invite Logo
Some of the silliest speculation this week, leading to headlines like this one, "Talk of two new iPhones continues to cool off," centered on the graphic that Apple used as an invitation to the members of the press it selected to come to its Cupertino headquarters next Tuesday. The time and date, 10 a.m. PT on October 4th, were evident clues, but excitement about the Maps logo was off-target: Getting freaked that Apple's campus at Infinite Loop in Cupertino, which you have to get to via Route 280, is shown is irrelevant—because that's simply the icon Apple's always had.
And then there's the fact Apple used the phone image with a "1 missed call" flag in the corner, which has some thinkers suggesting we'll only be seeing a single new unit revealed next week, coupled with the use of the phrase "iPhone" in the singular. Let's debunk this: Apple refers to its devices like this nowadays, to support the branding notion—it's "iPod" and "iPad" and "iPhone" when mentioned singly or in groups. And why would Apple go to the bother of telling pundits we're only going to see a single phone? In our mind, two iPhones are still a distinct possibility.
This may be the most concrete evidence yet that the new flagship device really is the iPhone 5 and that it has that radical new metal-chassic teardrop design we've heard about: Silicone cases that match this profile have already shown up in AT&T stores, and numerous other "iPhone 5" cases are showing in the store's inventory computers.
AT&T and Apple may not be the exclusive BFFs that they once were, but you know that the two firms will have worked closely on the iPhone 5—to test how the device works on the network under controlled situations in the lab and on the street. With AT&T likely to sell millions of the things for Apple, you'd expect that Tim Cook or Steve Jobs would've told them if there was no iPhone 5, no new design and so on, before letting them order many an accessory for the device.
Then there's this video...
Over the week numerous Apple SKUs have started showing up in store inventories. First up came the iPhone "4S" accompanied by what seemed to be a leaked photo of a box label that confirmed the name and that it was a world phone with both CDMA and GSM powers (thanks to the fact the label shows both an IMEI for GSM and an MEID for CDMA device identification).
Later evidence then suggested a codenamed N94 device, the new iPhone, is showing in store inventories with both 16GB and 32GB storage capacities. A separate "N90A" device is also in the systems, which has been identified as possibly a reduced capacity 8GB iPhone 4—based on previous Apple stock codes, and the fact it's a lower number than the new N94 units (which come in both black and white SKUs).
Debate centered on whether the device is called "iPhone 4S" or "iPhone 5" based on these leaked details, with the suggestion that the reduced storage iPhone 4 N90A is merely all the hardware from the current iPhone 4 but at a cheaper price, with smaller internal storage.
Looking at engineering drawings that supposedly leaked out of Apple's China supply base some while ago, an enterprising chap named Ben Miller took a block of aluminum and machined it to closely match the specifications, creating a faux engineering model replicant that hints at what we think is the design for the iPhone 5.
Check it out—it agrees nicely with our own Fast Company rendered imagery.
China's iPhone 5—With Speed!
China's upcoming iPhone launch partner China Unicom let slip a few suggestive details this week. The company gave a presentation this week at Macworld Asia and their slide for the iPhone history included a blank slot for the "iPhone 5," lending more support to the name, and a specs list that included mention of HSPA+ tech, with download speeds of 21Mbps. This is sometimes known as 3.5G or 4G tech (depending on how desperate a phone network is to make itself seem future-facing) and delivers mobile 3G speeds that European users have enjoyed for a while longer than U.S. ones. It's also much faster than the current 7-ish Mbps rate of the iPhone 4's wireless systems.
Cheap iPod Touch
We've suggested Apple ditch its iPod, and evidence now suggests the Shuffle and Classic are indeed being killed off by Apple. But we also think Apple will show a slightly tweaked iPod Touch at the event, adding in white paint and speedier chips. Now it seems that, to avoid cannibalization of the (presumably) reduced price 8GB N90A iPhone, Apple is going to drop the price of the new 8GB Touch model to $199 or possibly less, to compete with devices like the Kindle Fire.
Fast Company's Conclusion
Cards on the table: We're pretty certain that Apple will show two new phones next week—a new iPhone 5 device with a new thinner, bigger-screen design, 8 megapixel camera and faster A5 CPU and a modified iPhone 4 with reduced internal storage but world-phone powers, which could be called the iPhone 4S (which may imply it could also have an A5 chip inside, in the same way the 3GS was a suped-up 3G with "S" standing for speed).
We've not seen much hints of the actual skinny iPhone 5 because Apple has learned its lesson, and locked down security tighter than ever.
But this is Apple, always mercurial, so we're also prepared to be surprised.