iPhone 5 release: Apple's September launch, what to expect

By Jonny Evans

Apple [AAPL] iPhone 5 release claims continued their canter to consciousness across the UK Jubilee weekend, with fuzzy video clips, part numbers and shadowy claims emerging from the parallel universe of smartphone intelligence.

[ABOVE: The latest incarnation of the "We've seen the iPhone 5" video meme claims to show the metal back of the next-gen device.]

Gorilla with a metal back

We're already expecting a thinner iPhone with new speaker grilles and a smaller dock connector.

Today we see the latest claimed iPhone video hit the Web, this time from parts reseller, ETradeSupply. This shows what appears to be a metal back case for the iPhone 5, meaning we'd be waving goodbye to the back glass panel.

The case also shows an aperture for what appears to be a smaller SIM card and to potentially host a display of 4-inches or so.

A word of warning, of course: The commentator on the video frequently points out that he's not sure what these parts are, or if they're really for iPhones, though he does note that the microphone port appears to have changed.

If this evidence is at all genuine, another major change within the case is that the power adaptor aperture now seems smaller. That's bound to lend a little more weight to claims of a new Dock Connector in the next design.

Coming next week -- NOT

Despite the intensity of iPhone 5 claims in recent weeks it still seems unlikely Apple will introduce the device during next week's WWDC. That event will focus on Mountain Lion, iOS 6 and a range of new Macs. The event will also see first glance at Apple's real mapping tools, some extension to Siri and, potentially, an upgrade for the existing versions of Apple TV software.

Apple CEO, Tim Cook, will doubtless lead the company's senior teams in a discussion about the company's new offerings during the Monday keynote address.

In April, Apple's marketing chief, Phil Schiller, tried to prepare us not to expect an iPhone: "We have a great WWDC planned this year and can't wait to share the latest news about iOS and OS X Mountain Lion with developers," he said in a company press release.

"Frankly I would be very surprised if they do announce the iPhone 5," Sterne Agee analyst, Shaw Wu, told Marketwatch. "We think WWDC will be more about software."

Given WWDC is a developer-focused event, it might also be logical to predict improvements in the Mac App Store and the introduction of new iCloud and Siri API's developers can use in their software.

Such features could explain the over 40 scheduled WWDC sessions information concerning which hasn't yet been announced.

[ABOVE: A nice iPhone 5 concept video.]

So what will the iPhone 5 be? (A list)

-- The iPhone 5 may not be called the iPhone 5;

-- It will possess a "different form factor" (I hate that expression);

-- It seems likely to possess a 4-inch display;

-- A new and faster processor and graphics processor, though possibly not yet an A6 chip;

-- HD camera, new Dock Connector, support for Apple's new micro-SIM design;

-- A metal back -- likely aluminum and possibly (though not probably) cast using LiquidMetal alloys;

-- Support for LTE, hopefully for networks outside of North America;

-- Support for NFC is possible, though mutterings across the blog-o-sphere hint this may not come to pass.

-- The interface may become more 3D-like, potentially featuring a technology similar to that recently introduced by Tactus Technology;

-- The headphone jack may move to the bottom of the iPhone.

-- Battery life will be much improved, partly through use of power-miserly parts such as new Broadcom chips, and partly through inclusion of a bigger battery in the otherwise slimmer than ever device.

[ABOVE: LiquidMetal, yes or no? Company CEO Tom Steipp says: "Our technology has been commercialized in a number of accounts, most recently by Apple computer..," so, coming or not? You decide.]

When's it coming?

I predicted early October, now it seems set for launch at an event in September, according to Topeka Capital Markets analyst, Brian White, whose supply chain sources warn of an "exciting September".

Introduction of the new phone may be accompanied by simultaneous launch of a new 7-inch iPad mini, aka the Amazon Fire-killer the analyst said, though we'll wait and see on that.

A September launch would place iPhone in some retail outlets for early to mid-October, just in time for the Christmas shopping season. The device is also likely to be offered on a pre-paid and post-paid basis in many markets, opening up sales into the contract-free markets worldwide.

With these notions in mind IDC's claims that Windows Phone will surpass iPhone marketshare by 2016 seem overly optimistic to say the least. The analysts seem to believe the Windows/Nokia partnership will prove enough to break new and emerging markets.

The analysts predict a three horse race (iOS, Windows, Android) but seems resistant to the idea that Apple is already showing us a hint of what it can do in emerging markets.

The claim is that Windows phones will do well in places such as China, however, Apple is already aggressively pursuing that market, so my analysis of IDC's analysis is that the conclusions are wrong. I can't see Windows taking the ascendancy any time soon, but do agree it will transpire to be a three horse race.

Summing up and what do we have?

The iPhone 5 (or new iPhone, or iPhone 4G, or "the new iPhone") will be a significant new design.

Boasting a 4-inch screen the 4G-ready device will be faster than before and will deliver parity in battery life. Thin and light, hardware improvements should include a new Dock Connector, support for Apple's new SIM design, and a repositioned headphone jack.

NFC support may be included, and the user interface will have been tweaked and re-developed for an experience not found on any other smartphone.

Expect announcement in September, shipping in volume by (approximately) mid to late October. Likely launch dates? That's up to you: make your predictions in comments below.

Keep up with further iPhone 5 coverage here:

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