iPhone 5 preview: Imagining Apple's 2012 iPhone

iPhone 5 preview: Imagining Apple's 2012 iPhone

Everything you need to know about Apple's new, widescreen iPhone

Apple hasn't announced a new iPhone yet, but it's safe to assume there'll be one this year. There's been a new iPhone once a year, every year, since Apple introduced it in 2007. The original iPhone was announced in January and shipped in June. iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4 were announced in June and shipped shortly thereafter. Last year, Apple switched to October for the iPhone 4S announcement and release, but otherwise didn't skip a beat. Back in July iMore learned that this year the iPhone 5,1 would be announced on September 12 and released on September 21. Apple has since confirmed the announcement date but not yet the release, and despite a steady stream of leaks, nothing is official until an Apple shows it off on stage.

With that in mind, however, we have reason to believe some of those leaks have been accurate. We've gone over them previously in separate articles, but it's worth rounding them up here. That way we can start setting reasonable expectations, even while we wait to be wowed.

Design

As iMore reported previously, the iPhone 5 will look similar to the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S with a few noticeable exceptions. The major visible differences 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.

If anyone has trouble believing Apple would keep a similar design on the market for three years running, go back and look at the 2005 Project Purple prototype. Consider that Apple's original, platonic ideal for how their phone should look and be built, and every year they're getting closer and closer to that ideal.

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.

4-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio, in-cell display

The screen takes up most of the front of the iPhone, and it's the way we look at and interact with all of our apps and all of our content. That makes it one of the most important elements of the iPhone. And that makes a bigger, 4-inch display with a taller, 16:9 aspect ratio that uses thinner in-cell technology to display a greater, 640x1136 pixel count perhaps the most important change coming to the iPhone 5.

It's also the change that will most impact the apps and the content we use and enjoy, and the developers, designers, and producers who make it. So why is Apple going with a bigger screen, why a taller screen but not a wider one, and how will our apps update to support it? Here's our take:

New, smaller Dock connector

Way back in February, iMore learned Apple was planning to ditch the traditional 30-pin Dock connector to go with something smaller. With the iPhone 5 and new technologies like LTE networking (see below), Apple will need every millimeter of space and milliamp of battery they can get. At the same time, AirPlay and Wi-Fi sync are reducing the need for physical cables.

The moment rumors of a new Dock port emerged, many expressed hope it would feature a MagSafe-style connector, like Apple's MacBook line of laptops. Symmetrical, it could be plugged in without worrying about up or down, and magnetically coupled for better ease of use. Others dream of ThunderBolt (sadly, that requires PCI architecture, which iOS currently does not have). Others simply wanted to make sure all their old Dock accessories would still be compatible and still work. Here's the deal:

4G LTE networking

iPhone 5 preview: 4G LTE networking

iMore learned back in March that the iPhone 5 would have 4G LTE networking. We’ve seen a pretty clear history of Apple integrating technology from the spring iPad release into the summer/fall iteration of the iPhone for the past few years. Last year, that included the A5 processor, 512MB of memory, and 64GB of storage. This year, it seems almost certain it will include LTE. To make room for it, Apple is switching to the smaller dock, thinner screen, and nano-SIM standard. Battery life shouldn't be a problem.

But will it be USA/Canada only, like the iPad, or will Apple finally take real 4G global?

No NFC

iOS 6 preview: Passbook

While early rumors suggested Apple was exploring NFC (near-field communications) for the iPhone 5, those plans sound like they've been shelved for now. However, many of the things that NFC does will also be possible with existing technologies like Bluetooth 4.0, which Apple included in the 2011 iPhone 4S. It covers low-power and fast connection, which mirror aspects of NFC's appeal. Wi-Fi Direct, which has also been rumored for the iPhone 5, could potentially be used for direct device-to-device communication as well.

Either way, Apple is already handling mobile transactions with the Apple Store app, and other companies like Starbucks are handling them with their own apps. iOS 6's Passbook is set to make that even easier as well.

Processor, graphics, RAM, and Storage

While there have been a lot of leaks about what the iPhone 5 it may look like (see below), there have only been a few about what will power it. That's not surprising. Apple seldom gives specifics about the processors inside the iPhone, or any of their iOS devices. They'll gladly tell us the storage capacity and associated pricing levels. They'll typically announce the name of the processor, maybe the number of cores, but they'll mostly just tell us how many times faster it is than the last generation, both in terms of computing and graphical power. And the amount of RAM is has? Forget about it. We'll likely not know the full details about the iPhone 5 processor until after it's launched and after it's been thoroughly torn down by third parties. That's the Apple way. In the meantime, all we can do is speculate based on past behavior and present technology.

An Apple A6, 1GB or RAM, and the same storage as last year makes sense, but is that what Apple will do?

Price points and color options

Apple has been extremely conservative when it comes to pricing and coloring the iPhone. The original was aluminum and black, but since 2008 and the iPhone 3G, Apple has stuck with black and white as the only color options, and $199 as the starting price point. While an argument could be made that it's time for Apple to go multi-chromatic with the iPhone the way they do with the low-end iPod shuffle and iPod nano, Apple seems content to let case and sticker makers, and other third-party solutions handle color for now. That's not likely to change. Maybe there's a market for a limited edition $1000 128GB (RED) iPhone, but not one Apple seems interested in for now. Given the odds on expanded storage mentioned above, that leaves us with:

  • $199 for 16GB white or black
  • $299 for 32GB white or black
  • $399 for 64GB white or black

The name

Apple announces iPhone 5 event for September 12

For the sake of convenience, iMore and many other media organizations have been referring to the next iPhone as the iPhone 5. There's no logical reason Apple couldn't call it iPhone 5 if they wanted to. The model number will be iPhone 5,1 after all (iPhone 3G was iPhone 1,2, not considered a full generation product by Apple), and for most mainstream customers the logical number after 4 -- even after 4S -- is 5.

Apple has used 3 twice (iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS) and 4 twice (iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S). Apple could easily use 5 twice as well (iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s). The iPhone 4S launched with iOS 5, so the iPhone 5 could easily launch with iOS 6.

It's marketing. Apple could literally call the new iPhone anything they want. iPhone X. iPhone tall. iPhone 4GS. iPhone 4GS Mark II Epic, LTE tallboy X. (Okay, that last one sounds more like a Sprint Android phone, but you get the point.)

They could even call it the new iPhone.

If you catch yourself starting to type "Apple can't call it the--" stop. You're over thinking it. Take a deep breath. Splash some water on your face. And hold tight for next Wednesday.

More on the iPhone 5

For more on the iPhone 5, the new iPhone, or whatever Apple ends up calling it, check out:

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPhone 5 preview: Imagining Apple's 2012 iPhone

46 Comments

Great article Rene. Will be interesting to read the comments. There will be some who say "Not new enough. If it isn't radically different than the 4S I'm not getting one."

There will be others who say "Moving the earphone jack to the bottom was a huge mistake. I'll be getting an alternative if Apple does that."

Can't have it both ways. Cue the detractors in 3... 2... 1...

Grow up. I tell you I've been following this blog for almost 4 years now and it seems like it gained a few children in that time. Why don't you go on BGR you'd fit right in with all the mindless souls there.

I love apple and my iphone but I need something flesh, iphone 5 it'll be great phone but I'll pass on this one. I'll switch to thick nokia 920.

Good write up and good points Rene. But I still have a very very hard time believing that the new phone will look like the last two. Sorry just my opinion.

I agree but I think thats because of the smartphone market and how apple has played its hand in litigation. There are only so many ways to make a smartphone and if apple changed their design too drastically, it could easily look like any other android or windows phone. Then Apple runs the risk of getting 'sued' instead of 'suing'

I think the front of the phone will be pretty much the same. But I think think will ditch the metal band and back glass. I also believe the sides and top and bottom will not be flat. There will be more of a thin rounded edge. I also believe we haven't seen all of ios 6 I think there are a few things Apple is saving for the main event. Just my opinion.

The more I look at these images, the more I like what I see. I'll be buying on day one. My only debate is black or white? Probably black.

Meh... while some will buy this phone... many people will switch after having the "same phone" for so many years. Just making the phone taller is not enough. Phones have become a fashion item... and people want something different.

Then an Apple is not for you. It's form, function, and sophistication. I for one thought the same and switched my phone glass to make it all red and it's was quite cool and a conversation starter but the appeal wore off shortly and I regretted the change. I was also intrigued with the galaxy note but once I played with it, I realized that it was way to big and wouldn't fit in my pocket. A four inch screen is just about right.

Agreed. I go through stages where I want to change the color on my iPhone or put different cases on it etc but i always go back to the original color (in my case, that's normally white).

A larger screen in my opinion is enough for most. The screen is the most important part of the device and it's what you interact with. I don't care if the back is the same, i'm not looking at the back, i'm looking at the screen. The iOS 6 refinements and new additions along with a taller screen will most likely be enough for a lot of people.

The Galaxy Note is big... the Galaxy Note 2 they put a bigger screen but slimmed down the overall dimensions of the phone/tablet.

The Galaxy S3 however is a great device... and although I thought the size was crazy at first... I've grown to love the size.

People said the same about the 4S and look at the outcome. It doesn't matter how major/miniscule the changes are, the masses want Apple iPhone's and for that, it's a job well done. Yeah people are going to complain that it's not much of an upgrade from their current one, but I guarantee they'll be spending money on the new one. I mean in all honesty you get what you pay for. Show me a more stable smartphone OS and a device with just as solid engineering as the iPhone. Not to mention Apple has cache to its name. The consumers in the current smartphone era don't know what the WindowsOS is like, heck even BlackBerry is becoming a faded OS of yesteryear. Apple is now and tomorrow and it won't fall from the top of this PDA game for a long long time.

im sorry i have to disagree. long time iuser. i just got forced into having to use a blackberry(work) i hated it. now that i am learning to use it i hate to say it but i feel lost when its not in my hands. love my iphone but the things i can do with the bb is quit amazing. the short cuts alone lets me do so much so fast its kinda cool.its like having 100's of apps built right into the keyborad.no app needed right from the box. hard to learn how to use but now that im starting to get it im finding my self thinking about switching. someone save me!

I still think for iOS6 on the new longer iPhone we could possibly see something in the way of a static notification center at the top, call it a customizable widget if you will. Swipe left or right to see weather, sports score, news, Facebook notifications, whatever. Still keeps the standard row of 4 icons for those that don't like change and adds additional functionality for those that desperately want widgets. If this doesn't happen, I hope the JB community can make this happen.

I only update when I can get contract pricing. Since I am a 4s owner a new iPhone is not in my future until 2013. That being said, this iteration is making it a lot easier to skip. I am more excited about iOS 6 than the phone..

No bash on Apple it's just hard to perfect what is already perfection. I think the 4s is still way ahead of the curve. IMO...

Is "Yuck" a word?
Guess I'm stuck on WM and my iPads. I see no point in having a remote control in my pocket.

I hope the release dates are on point as reported. A couple reps I work with and my DM say the preorder date won't be the same as the announce date of the 12th. But I think they're just saying that to pull my strings since they know I already took off the 12th and 21st and they're all in the "Android camp". So I'm really hoping the preorder and release dates are as reported!

Here's a question I haven't seen answered.... (unless I've missed it somewhere).
With the taller screen, will the camera also take 16:9 aspect photos?

This is for real, if all they change is the hardware and the software has been the same since 2007, then sorry, I won't be upgrading. I want new software. The set up is boring, played out. This iPhone better be impressive if not that Lumia 920 or Galaxy S III is starting to look good to me. This is my opinion. : )

I'm sure it will be a great phone, but I'll stick with Android. Couldn't go back to iOS after using Jellybean, it would drive me crazy. But maybe iOS 6 will make some improvements in functionality and convenience. I would love to combine some things from the iPhone hardware, like the camera and CPU, with the Android OS.

I'm just curious why you keep rehashing the same material over and over again? You've run countless articles over the last few months covering the new iPhone, yet don't add anything new. Do you really need to summarize, again, material that you've already reported? The repetitiveness of it is getting a little tiring.

If this is the new iPhone, then how can I read anything better then the last one? If it's not wider, then it's totally not worth the upgrade! I hope they don't screw this up for me!!

I've been a fan of the iPhone for a while. First pulled the trigger on a 3GS, then got a 4S which I have currently but this year, the iPhone 5 (from the rumors) hasn't done anything for me and I highly doubt the actual presentation will do anything for me either, unless they announce something radical with battery life. That's my new need in a device, don't care about email, messaging, or apps. All smartphones can do that stuff, it's now about which phone can last through the day no matter how much I use it.

If it doesn't have at least a 2,200 mAh battery (which I HIGHLY doubt because of how stupid thin it is) then I'll definitely be jumping ship.

You should check out what Moto announced a few days ago. I believe the Droid Razr M has around 2000 mh and is only $99. And it has GREAT specs. Apart from that the Droid Razr Maxx HD has like 3300mh.

Cool design I guess. Whatever works for you works for you, but everyone saying that the design is enough and Apple will break record sales and will outsell Android devices: Apple sells one phone. Android is on many therefore (as every Mobile OS statistics company points out) Android leads market share in mobile OS globally and has been gaining share. So there has to be a reason why some people are switching over from a iPhone as the iPhones Market share has been decreasing. But I dont want to seem like I am always being negative towards Apple. I am a firm believer in that whatever works best for you and your lifestyle is ALWAYS the best way to go. :-)

Hopefully Apple comes with a suprise on the 12th. The previous time when they revealed the iPhone 4S many people where sceptic because the design was the same only some hardware features were upgraded and it has Siri. Hop they can dazzle me this time with something nobody expected!

www.iDevizes.com

i5 i5s will be the best phones out i4 and the i4s where great all these 4g android phones wasnt that much faster than the i4 and i4s ;4g lte for the i5 will be great..... trust me

No NFC? Man I hope they change that. I was really hoping for some cool stuff with Passport… and NFC was part of that equation. In reality, I’ll be disappointed if all of the above holds true. I mean, the bigger screen is a welcomed addition, but that’s it? So the reason to upgrade to the new iPhone is the added rows of icons? I really hope not.

In reality, I'm okay with the new iPhone looking like the 4/4S because it's a beautiful design, but the hardware design was never an issue IMO. It was the OS. iOS seems so stale compared to Jelly Bean and what Nokia has shown with the Lumia 920. Maybe it’s the apptray nature of iOS, but I really hope they add more to it.

I remember buying the first iPhone in 2007. There was no subsidizing at the time. It was the best 700 spent on a phone. It couldn't do anything lol. No app store, no mms, no landscape texting, no video recording, no 3G, no copy and paste, no flash for camera, or front facing camera, no multitasking. What it did do it did it better than any other phone at the time tho. It took 3 iPhones to get video recording. Two to get landscape typing, 3 for mms, 4 for flash and front cameras. The point I'm making is incremental painful teaser upgrades are what apple does. Year after year people buy it hoping they get a taste of something new for iPhone. A bigger screen is just another tease that people wanted but apple decides when your ready for it. In 2010 I stopped buying iPhones. Now I have my galaxy s 3 and my galaxy note and when the Nokia 920 comes out I'll be all over that. I still enjoy my iPads tho :)

The 16x9 tall narrow screen would be a deal killer for me. I don't need more vertical room, I need to increase the size of what I can already see in the existing screen. I can only hope that this rumor, which will be a nightmare for developers as well, is a clever feint by Apple. A 4 inch screen with the current aspect ratio would keep me in the fold. Otherwise the Nokia 920 is on my list.

im sorry i have to disagree. long time iuser. i just got forced into having to use a blackberry(work) i hated it. now that i am learning to use it i hate to say it but i feel lost when its not in my hands. love my iphone but the things i can do with the bb is quit amazing. the short cuts alone lets me do so much so fast its kinda cool.its like having 100's of apps built right into the keyborad.no app needed right from the box. hard to learn how to use but now that im starting to get it im finding my self thinking about switching. someone save m

The is the most faboulas Smartphone on the earth. To buy the iPhone 5 cheaper you can visit the germna coupon portal http://www.netdealz.de and take the discount on apple products from diverse seller! Hope you enjoy the discount!