iPhone 5 for summer 'at the earliest', what to expect

By Jonny Evans

Later update: Also worth considering this report.

There's so much focus on the iPad 2.0 right now, which we now know will likely be faster, slimmer, lighter, host cameras and boast better graphics with a better screen than the existing model, but what do we know about the iPhone 5? What features can we look forward to in the next-gen Apple smartphone when it ships in summer "at the earliest"?

Well, it seems the device may not appear in June (UPDATE TO ADD: or perhaps it will, see this later report here). This will likely set the usual pundits off on a course of "but Apple always introduces new models in June" chatter, but Apple makes the rules. Pundits don't. And in any case, it may just be that Apple just can't hit that June date this time around.

Why do I think this?

[This story is from Computerworld's Apple Holic blog. Follow on Twitter or subscribe via RSS to make sure you don't miss a beat.]

The AAPL supply line gossip hounds over at Digitimes claim Apple has added Foxconn Electronics, Foxlink, Gold Circuit Electronics (GCE) and Epistar as component suppliers for the iPhone 5 smartphone  -- but also warn the iPhone 5 is "scheduled for launch during summer at the earliest" (emphasis is mine).

It is tough luck for Japan's Foster, which has lost the earphone supply contract to Foxconn because of the strengthening Yen. Foxlink will produce earphone jack sockets for the iPhone 5.

"With a shortage of HDI boards, Apple has also newly added GCE as a supplier, but will continue to source from Compeq Manufacturing and Unimicron Technology as well," the report informs, before letting us know to expect LED chips from Epistar through a tech sharing agreement with Japan's Toyoda.

Recently we learned Kinsus Interconnect Technology is to supply silicon for the iPhone 5's new Qualcomm baseband chip. This is likely to be a combined CDMA/GSM chip, meaning all those Verizon iPhone users should be able to use the next-gen Apple smartphone when traveling in 'smaller' countries, such as all those across Europe using GSM networks which aren't compatible with CDMA. 

Faster, faster, pussycat phone

The iPhone 5 is also expected to run on Apple's new A5 CPU, which is built on ARM's Cortex A9 architecture. This would be a multi-core processor, significantly boosting the speed the device runs at. And you can bet a dollar that Apple may use the new dual-core SGX543 graphics core. This potentially means you can look forward to 1,080p video recording and HDMI-quality output.

In a smartphone. Cast your mind back to the cellphone you used just five years ago and you can only go "wow".

Are we going to see a repeat of last year's big leak of an early iPhone 4 prototype with the iPhone 5? Absolutely not: the device is already in use and already being tested, but only by senior folk working within the confines of the Apple campus.

We also recently learned the iPhone 5 may support a new iOS feature that's popped up within iOS 4.3 beta 2, a feature called 'Media Stream'. While this is being talked up as Apple's move into social networking, it seems to be little more than a photo gallery feature, similar to the existing facility of subscribing to other people's iPhoto collections from within iPhoto. Despite which I do hope MobileMe becomes an engaging social network eventually -- I'd value any improvement in the service.

Perhaps a bigger hint at that kind of activity is within the other code secret -- 'iGroups'. Could this suggest some interesting location-based features for iPhone 5?

iPhone 5 a wallet

I've written before about NFC support in the device. Benjamin Vigier, Apple's new Mobile Commerce Manager has huge experience in the NFC field, including stints at Starbucks and PayPal. Apple has the patents, and in iPhone 5 you will see a smartphone that is also your wallet.

Also look forward to better video and image capture CCDs, flash, and improvements in the external antenna design are all extremely likely in the next generation Apple smartphone.

I'd also anticipate some interesting connections between an iPhone 5 and a user's Mac, should they have one, with Mac OS X Lion doubtless set to offer some deeply compelling features to iPhone users, partially to stimulate Mac sales to non Mac-using iPhone owners, and partially just to show what the company can do in terms of leveraging functionality across all its platforms.

So what will iPhone 5 be?

It will be:

  • a phone,
  • a compass,
  • a map,
  • your mail, texts and social networks,
  • an Internet appliance,
  • a games machine,
  • a wallet,
  • capable of running all manner of Apps
  • your thin client Mac,
  • your video and still camera,
  • pocket calculator,
  • pedometer,
  • car keys
  • and airplane boarding pass.

Which, when you think about it, isn't such a bad achievement for a product which only landed inside an already veteran industry in 2007.

There's possibilities the iPhone 5 may support 3D games, a la Nintendo 3DS, and also that it will be made available on a third US carrier, Sprint.

I've not yet touched upon the chance Apple may introduce its own mapping and location-based service offerings. Nor (yet) have we considered just how the company intends implementing wider VoiceOver support in the next-gen of the device.

What do you think? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when these items are published here first on Computerworld.

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