Collected: Apple iPhone 5 to be under 8mm thin, ships Fall

By Jonny Evans

Apple [AAPL] may plan its thinnest smartphone yet, aiming to shave the iPhone 5 to just under 8mm through use of new display technology, that's the latest  breakfast rumor this Monday morning.

[ABOVE: The queue for last October's iPhone 4S launch in Tokyo. Will the new iPhone get the same reception? Probably.]

The new iPhone

Last week we think we learned iPhone 5 may be produced with new LiquidMetal alloys, and that it would also feature a new display technology called in-cell. At that time the claim came from DisplaySearch VP, David Hsieh, who explained the new displays would come from Sony, Sharp and Toshiba.

Today we hear from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who also thinks the next iPhone will deploy in-cell touch panels, as first reported by AppleInsider.

This new tech embeds the touch sensor within the screen. This removes the need for an extra touch-sensitive layer bound to the screen, as used in existing iPhones. Removing that layer could help chop 0.44mm from the depth of the device.

It goes further: the analyst says he thinks Apple intends breaking the 8mm mark with the next iPhone. Current models are 9.3mm thick. Conceivably, use of LiquidMetal alloys and the new display tech could help shave 1.3mm or more off of the thickness of the device.

Manufacturing improvements

There's another advantage: these displays take significantly less time to manufacture, and the manufacturing process offers better production yields. Production procedures could be "cut from eight to five", while production time could fall to 3-5 days from 12-16 days.

That's significant as it could enable Apple/Foxconn to churn out more phones at a faster rate and -- potentially -- reduce production costs.

If the latter speculation is correct, then this could also enable Apple to reduce the cost of its devices. Kuo suggests the cost saving could be in the region of 10 percent to 20 percent. I can already imagine the marketing: "iPhone 5, the thinnest smartphone, ever -- from $169."

The device would also be faster (new processors) and likely equipped with better graphics. Given these advantages, any move to reduce the product's price would apply further pressure on competing devices, which don't achieve the sheer sales numbers Apple gets with its iPhone. That's important as that arithmetic enables the company to secure components at prices other firms cannot match.

Not June, fragmented LTE/NFC promise

There's two other nuggets in the report:

-- The iPhone will not ship in June. This analyst also predicts a Fall/October release. I'll stress once again that this makes more sense to me, as it enables Apple to tap into the huge Christmas market -- not a bad idea as people's pocketbooks remain squeezed by the economic challenges presently faced by developed nations worldwide.

-- The iPhone 5 may not be the iPhone 5. Kuo suggests Apple will abandon its semi-consecutive numbering system, referring to the device as "the new iPhone".

Kuo also anticipates the new iPhone will offer 4G/LTE support. What isn't clear yet is if Apple will focus on the LTE standards used in North America, or if it will introduce LTE devices which also work on 4G networks worldwide.

From my point of view that's no deal-breaker as there are no 4G networks in the UK at time of writing. The faster mobile broadband semi-standard isn't expected to become commonplace worldwide until 2013 at the earliest.

Also unclear is if the new iPhone will indeed deliver support for NFC payments. That's another standard in which US payment providers have adopted one NFC implementation, while those outside the country have chosen an alternative system.

Apple's challenge with both NFC and LTE will be battery life. If it focuses only on its North American markets it will create a wave of dissatisfaction among its millions of customers outside of the region. Yet if the firm adopts solutions capable of running on 4G and NFC networks in and outside the US, what impact might that support have on battery life?

Summing up for those watching the iPhone 5 story, it now seems the new iPhone will appear in Fall, and will be thinner, faster and, perhaps, slightly cheaper than the current edition. Use of LiquidMetal tech suggests the product may be very different-looking, too.

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