More iPhone 5 metal back, 4-inch screen, NFC rumors

Adding more -- if decidedly similar -- fuel to iPhone 5 rumor fire, China Times is reporting that trial production has begun on the device, and that it does indeed have a 4-inch screen, metal back/chassis, NFC (near field communications), and perhaps an improved antenna and dual GSM/CDMA support. All this packed into pretty much the same form factor as iPhone 4.

They claim, however, it will only ramp up production in Q3, 2011 (July to September) which would be later than Apple's typical summer release schedule.

Are the rumors getting steady enough that you're starting to believe this is what we'll see in the 5th generation iPhone?

[China Times via GadgetDNA via MacRumors. Note: Image above shows aftermarket iPhone 4 metal back conversion]

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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

More iPhone 5 metal back, 4-inch screen, NFC rumors

70 Comments

i dont think we'll see NFC on the next iphone. definitly think they are going to a aluminium back instead of the glass, and i dont know if apple will increase the screen size only because of developers and the retina display. all the apps will have to be updated AGAIN!

It's unlikely that Apple would increase the screen size AND the number of pixels and enrage developers. To ensure 100% app compatibility with Retina-display-optimized apps, it's more likely that while the screen size is increased, the number of pixels would stay the same. Although this would make the dpi a little less than on the iPhone 4.
But who knows which way they'll go - and if the screen size is going to be increased at all...

It looks like someone just slapped the metal back onto the 4, as you can still apparently see the black glass layer beneath it. NFC, maybe, probably, I don't know?

You are aware that the picture shows an iPhone 4? "Note: Image above shows aftermarket iPhone 4 metal back conversion"

I'm ready, but the phone pictured isn't a 5. It's a 4 with a brushed metal "case" glued to the back of it. FAIL !

That's exactly what it is - and also exaclty what the article says it is: "Note: Image above shows aftermarket iPhone 4 metal back conversion"
And I don't think that's a fail at all, in my opinion it looks extremely good! :)

Actually the metal back is stuck to a plastic frame with double sided tape. It is very flimsy but once installed it will stay put.

At this point, the only thing I believe is that iPhone 5 will look like the CDMA iPhone 4. Same screen size, same glass back, separate GSM and CDMA versions and an A5 SoC. Same antenna design.
That's it. No bigger screen. No NFC. No metal back.

So what you meant to say is you don't think Apple will release an iPhone 5, yet, you expect more of a "3GS" type boost? Fair enough.
I'll tell you some (not-so)insider information though - Apple only renames a product on a redesign. If you start seeing official iPhone 5 marketing from Apple around the time of WWDC...expect a complete redesign.

There was absolutely external difference between the first iPhone and the iPhone 3G. You're an idiot.

I think it will be a 5, and it will have some back mods to go a long with it. You know how Apple people are, they HAVE to have the latest, and Apple always makes some minor change so the world can tell. Just like the first white iPhone was only the 16G model, so people knew you paid the extra $$$ for it. Same as the iPad, make it just different enough for the world to know "YOU have the lastest" whatever it is. There were issues with the glass back, and I for one am not comfortable with the glass. The iPhone "6" will be another re-design with a new form factor, like they did with the 3GS-to-4. I think it will be a 5 also to drop the ATT / Verizon specific phones, and they will have just one model. It CANNOT be cheap for Apple to have to make a separate phone for Verizon, and seeing how few they are selling compared to ATT, one model makes a lot of sense. iPhone 5 - One phone, two carriers.

With an A5 SoC, it represents a major version update.
And the iPhone 3GS stands today as the single biggest update to its predecessor then any other iPhone update, and likely, for all time. You will never see such a huge increase in performance, across the board for all ops, between versions again as was seen in the iPhone 3GS.

Like I said before - the internals are one thing, the design, which Apple touts so highly, is a completely other. Thus making the 3GS a major "update" to the phone, but not a redesign. Redesigns are what Apple brands their new versions around.

You are betting that Apple will change the chassis design for the summer 2011 iPhone update? Ok. Obviously we disagree. We'll know in 3 months.

I am not betting that they're change the product design. You're obviously not reading very well. I never said I was betting on a redesign. I simply said it will only be branded as iPhone 5 if it is completely redesigned. If it's a spec bump, it will hold the 4 branding.

Ok. So you are not making any statements at all. There's really no fun to predict what's going to happen based on Apple's marketing of the device. It's not even a rumor at that point.
So, what do you think it is going to be?

Here is my statement (refer to my original reply to your comment) - if you suspect the next generation iPhone to have no design changes at all, then I promise you it won't be called the iPhone 5.

Not sure about the latest dates, but this is the year of the iPad. Who knows how far off apple's scheduled is.

@Keel @DoubleDown That is an iPhone 4 w a replacement back panel -- not glued on! The back panel is actually really easy to remove. It's a picture from last year and a post a couple days ago had the same picture w a disclaimer that it is in fact a 4 w an aftermarket aluminum panel -- probably anticipating responses like yours.

I'm still not sold on the metal back. I know people like it, but it plays heck with RF signals. Glass is too fragile and heavy. Personally, I have no problem with plastic/polycarbonate, since it doesn't feel as slick in your hand, but apparently using plastic is beneath Apple now.

While a new design with a larger screen is certainly welcome, what really needs improvement is the OS.

Explain. What about the OS needs improvement? I'm not being defensive, I just don't understand what Apple has promised that the current OS doesn't deliver?

How could they be better? Perhaps suggest an improvement rather than saying "could be better". Pizza "could be better", but I think it's still terrific the way it is.

I agree with you. They absolutely need to get rid of notifications that pop up in DEAD CENTER of the screen that disrupt typing and playing games. If I'm typing and I get a PNS or SMS/MMS ( if im in another typing app like twitter ) I get switched over. That's really annoying. I guess if I'm playing a game, Apple wants us to go into Airplane Mode but that can't be,its not " elegant ". As for a solution, I've always said that the top bar of the screen where the time is can be extended to twice it's size without compromising the size or orientation of the apps in the spring board. We see this when we're in voice recorder and we go to the home screen ( spring board ) and if you use skype and exit to the spring board. This is just one of those things that should have ben fixed since they introduced PNS.

Thanks Omari. That's actually a decent reply. I haven't really seen any issues in my experience with the current notification flow, but I can see from what you're citing as an example, how that might be annoying to someone using a game or typing in an app.
You make some decent suggestions. You should submit this to http://apple.com/feedback.

There will be no iPhone 5 on T-Mobile. For the reason that, when the merger is completed and the iPhone would be eligible for T-Mobile...there will be no more T-Mobile.

I hope that the new iPhone is made of pure Unicorn tusk. Only the finest of ingredients should be used to construct the next version. It would magnify RF signals while accelerating your hopes and dreams.

I can't see it having a metal back (which would act as an RF shield) after all the problems they had with the metal back on the iPhone 1 and the antenna problems of the iPhone 4. You cannot devy the laws of physics and get RF to go through metal at all the frequences the iPhone uses for it's various radios. If anything I would expect them to ditch the steel band antenna of the iPhone 4 and revert to an integral antenna. An RF shield on the back of the phone would mean you would get variable reception for the phone/GPS/WiFi/bluetooth depending on which way you were facing. Steve Jobs will then probably tell us to "don't face that way" or some other classically stupid comment. A metal back would also negate any possibly to have NFC in the same device.

A typical metal back might act as an RF shield, but what about a Liquidmetal backing? How have RF frequency/strength tests held up against Apple's recently acquired alloy.

Just my two cents here, but with cell technology advancing, could we not just see an iPhone "4G" on the next release with just hardware tweaks such as newer processor??

Yes although they would not call it the 4G or 4GS as it has no 4G technology in it (misleading). They would more likely call it the iPhone 5.

As I've said above, Apple has a strict policy of naming conventions on their branding of mobile devices. It gets a new version when it's been redesigned. Meaning this phone, if redesigned, will be named iPhone 5. If it's a spec bump, it will not be named iPhone 5. I promise you that.

Hey Rene please put: [Image shows aftermarket iPhone 4 metal back conversion]over the image itself so we don't have to read the moronic "nice try but that's just an iphone 4 with a metal back, photoshop fail" and subsequent reply explanations -ever again. Thanks!

I would like the iPhone 5 to take on a similar look as the iPad 2 with it's flat back and curves. A classic Apple iPod look yet easy to pick up off the table and would just fit right into your palm. Additionally, the speaker orientation will make loud speaker mode 'louder' :)

The aluminum backing is pretty nice i got it on ebay round 6 months ago for around 12 bucks. get lots of compliments. Only down side letters and Apple logo erase pretty easy other than that its very clean.

Who buys this thing? No 4G in the midst of a 4G onslaught? NFC instead of 4G? Really!! Dual core for what??? Certainly not for web browsing or interactive games over 3G.
Figure out how to squeeze adequate battery life from a 4G radio. That is where the innovation is at the moment.

Hmmmm...what if they are making a bigger screen and increasing the resolution? That way, they'd be able to keep apps the same size but add a fabulous new notification area that doesn't interrupt the apps at all. Just a thought...

Why don't we all just wait and see what uncle Steve brings us? He doesn't dissapoint, so let's just have him sprinkle his pixy dust, and 2011 will be fun again.... Cool?

You'd think the way everyone gets all worked up that they made the iPhone & iPad. Right? 2011 will be a great year. :-)

Bring it on !! I want the metal back. the iPhone 4 is full of contradictions. Strong steal chassis but sandwich by glass ?
Just give me by 64GB , kthanksbai.

Will they still announce the iPhone 5 in June if they are delaying the release until Q3? Will they release the white iPhone 4 in the Spring, given that they will (allegedly) be releasing the iPhone 5 later than first anticipated?

Am I the only one who loves the current design INCLUDING the glass front and back. I have dropped it a few times on hard internal flooring and it's without a scratch. Although I'm sure dropping it on external flooring may be different.

I just don't think that Apple will release a phone that will be interchangeable between cdma and gsm. It would be nice but I don't think that either carrier has an interest in people being able to switch between them. A software lock isn't enough either, they know we'll just get around it so a hardware limitation is the only option.

I want a NOTIFICATION LED on the FRONT.
Just a small one.
Missed call: Blink
SMS: Blink
not too much to ask ?

a NOTIFICATION LED on the FRONT would be great!
Best be a small one.
Missed calls: glow
New SMS: Glow
not too much to ask ?

Deployment of NFC on iPhone5/4G/4GS seems unlikely, since a number of hackers have proven that it's hardly secure against determined ne'er-do-wells. The only other phone to feature this is the Samsung/Google Nexus S, which still has very limited use for the technology, due mainly to security concerns, relegating it to the realm of a 'gimmick' feature. And that phone's been out since November! If anyone could make it work, It'd be Apple, but I'm highly dubious.
Stop complaining about ppi on a slightly larger screen. It'll still be a fantastic display, and if you won't notice the difference unless you hold the thing right in front of your eyeball. Be happy that you get some more screen real-estate.
Additionally, those concerned about worsened reception issues with a metal back need to realize that Apple will definitely not disregard the lessons learned in Antenna-gate. In all likelihood they will move back to a traditional internal antenna, bypassing the whole issue. Additionally, since AT&T acquired T-Mobile, the bandwidth they subsume from T-Mo will increase reception in all areas, more than making up for whatever the metal backing would do. However, you won't see those changes until next year.
Delayed launch date is because of AT&T's slow roll-out of LTE, for which iphones on VZW and AT&T will be equipped. It will be worth the wait.

I actually hit skip to comments by mistake and was rather amused by your comments "dood", do you work for the apple company? You seem to "correct" alot of other comments. My dingus is bigger than your dingus kinda thing? Just sayin