iMore has learned that recent parts leaks and dummy phones are accurate representations of what the new iPhone (iPhone 5,1) will look like when Apple announces it on September 12, 2012. Almost identical in design to the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, the major visible differences will include a 4-inch display with a 16:9 aspect ratio, a metallic plate across most the back, a centered FaceTime camera on the front, and a miniaturized Dock connector and relocated 3.5mm headset jack along the bottom.
Apple originally prototyped a 3.5-inch and at least one 4-inch designs for the 2012 iPhone. iLounge accurately reported on one of the 4-inch prototypes back in May. iMore also learned that Apple would decide which prototype to go with sometime in July, and on July 17, the Wall Street Journal reported Apple had begun manufacturing. On July 30, iMore learned Apple had settled on September 12, 2012 for the iPhone 5 announcement event, which has since been confirmed by Apple. iMore has also reported that September 21 will be the U.S. iPhone launch day, with the second wave of launches currently scheduled for on or around October 5.
This information comes from sources who have been reliable in the past. While nothing is confirmed until Apple shows it off on stage, based on the parts, dummies, and other reports, it seems highly probable.
There's too much to cover, so we'll sum up. On February 23, 2012, iMore learned Apple would be miniaturizing the Dock connector for the iPhone 5. On March 23, iMore learned Apple would be including LTE networking in the iPhone 5, as they had the new iPad. On May 11, iMore learned Apple would be trying to remove Google from the iPhone and iOS. On May 29, 9to5Mac posted images of the new, unibody back casing for the iPhone 5. On July 29 and July 30, many of the leaked parts that had been floating around were assembled and shown off in stills and on video.
Conspiracy theories have been floated suggesting Apple is deliberately leaking false parts or a discarded prototype to create a bigger surprise come September 12. If that's the case, they're spending a lot of time, effort, and money, and doing it at an incredible scale. While Apple has over $100 billion in the bank and could do almost anything they want, they don't have any more time than anyone else, and it seems doubtful they'd waste what precious time they do have on on practical joke when there's so much for them still to do on the real product.
Just like last year when we tried to help set expectations before the iPhone 4S event, to the best of our knowledge everyone would be best served going into the September 12 event with their expectations set on the iPhone 5 you see above, and have seen leaked to date.
If anyone doesn't believe Apple would use a similar design to the 2010 iPhone 4 and the 2011 iPhone 4S, go back and look at the 2005 Project Purple prototype. Consider that Apple's current platonic ideal for how their phone should look and be built.
The iPhone design isn't fashion. Jonathan Ive has said repeatedly, it's function. It's iconic. It's a piece of industrial design rooted in Braun and Leica and Dieter Rams that could sit on any museum shelf. It's some of the best manufacturing ever seen in mobile, and it looks as good today as it did in 2005 and in 2010, and as any phone currently on the market. Apple isn't concerned with making the newest looking phone. They're concerned only with making the best phone.
Add a larger screen and a metal back, and shave off a few micro-milimeters from the existing iPhone design, and it would be hard to argue that's not just exactly what they're doing with the iPhone 5.
We'll find out for sure in one week's time.