Apple [AAPL] is preparing to ship the iPhone 5 in the third quarter 2011 (some time between July and September), reports claim, even as the company tells us it will indeed manage to ship the iPad 2 into 25 new countries this week.
iPad 2 ships to schedule
There's been some expectation Apple might be unable to fulfill its promise to deliver the iPad 2 into international markets starting March 25. This has turned out untrue -- Apple will begin selling the device starting at 5pm local time in the new countries, the company said today.
In addition, the iPad ships in Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and additional countries in April, the company said.
"While competitors are still struggling to catch up with our first iPad, we've changed the game again with iPad 2," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs in a statement. "We're experiencing amazing demand for iPad 2 in the US, and customers around the world have told us they can't wait to get their hands on it. We appreciate everyone's patience and we are working hard to build enough iPads for everyone."
However, the Japan earthquake has created component shortages which have afflicted some Apple suppliers, including motherboard maker BT Resin and battery manufacturer, Sony. Given strong iPad 2 demand and blips in component supply, iPad 2 supply is likely to be constrained.
Incidentally Setteb.it tells us that outside of the US, Australia is the cheapest place to pick up an iPad, closely followed by New Zealand. Consumers in Norway and Sweden pay the most, the research claims.
A5-powered iPhone 5 has a metal back
The new Apple smartphone will carry the iPad-2's A5 processor and should also boast much-improved graphics, such as those found inside the iPad 2. In other words, it seems likely the iPhone 5 will offer nine times the graphics performance and twice the processor speed.
The latest report also claims the device will boast a scratch-resistant metal back and a 4-inch screen.
I'm curious about this. I recall recent speculation which claimed Apple might abandon the home button on the iPad. I'm wondering if it may instead abandon the button on the next iPhone. This would enable it to maximize screen space while maintaining the same basic device dimensions.
This seems unlikely.
Previously-leaked iPhone 5 engineering drawings also confirmed a larger screen and a smaller surrounding bezel-- but these drawings also featured a Home button.
Following last year's deluge of press criticism over the so-called 'Antenna-gate' debacle, it should be no surprise that the antenna inside iPhone 5 has been improved. The new metal chassis is part of Apple's attempt to deliver improved data and voice call reception.
'iWallet' -- yes, or no?
Apple's payment plans remain in the spotlight. In recent weeks Near Field Communications (NFC) technologies have been in the device, out of the iPhone or coming next year. Today's claim claws it back: NFC will be stuffed inside the iPhone 5, making it an 'iWallet', according to the China Times.
The New York Times this week claimed that Apple does intend introducing an NFC chip into a future iPhone, contradicting previous claims.
The device will be manufactured by Apple's long-time manufacturing partner, Foxconn (Hon Hai Precision Industry). In related news, it was recently revealed Foxconn plans to open an Apple-dedicated manufacturing facility in Brazil.
Given the thinness of the iPad 2, it seems likely we'll see a millimeter or two shaved from the shape of the iPhone 5. The Retina Display screen may benefit from additional 3D support -- this would be boosted by the powerful processor and graphics chip.
The release of the new device will likely take place around the same time as Apple introduces its new streaming iTunes/ digital locker service. It may also turn up in conjunction with new and improved MobileMe services.
What else are you expecting from the iPhone 5? Will it be a solid enough release to compete with the Android menace? Let me know in comments below. I'd also very much like to invite you to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when I post new reports here first on Computerworld.