Apple's next iPhone is always a heavily rumored affair. We gather all the whispers here and make sense of it.
With Mobile World Congress just around the corner, rumors about new and upcoming devices are as thick as San Francisco fog. However, one company that won't be in Barcelona next week is Apple. The Cupertino-based company prefers to steer clear of these big conferences and mass launch events, choosing instead to host their own exclusive events. That way, its news never gets lost in the flood of announcements (as if that could happen to the Apple of today).
What you may wonder, after hearing about all the new phones that are going to arrive through the spring and into the summer, is if the iPhone 6 is will match up to the MWC debutantes. Apple hasn't announced the device yet, and it's not expected to announce anything for a while. After all, the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S were just announced and released in September. Though Apple has traditionally announced new phones at WWDC in June, it's thought the switch to September refresh will carry through to this year (though there is some talk of Apple bumping things up to August). So what can we expect come fall? Below is a round up of iPhone 6 rumors, which we'll update as time goes on.
Arguably one of the most important features of a smartphone, given it's what you'll spend all your time looking at. Apple pays special attention to its displays, adding its famed Retina Display with the introduction of the iPhone 4. Talk of the iPhone 6 display Recent rumors suggest Apple is going to use a sapphire display in the iPhone 6. The company’s new Arizona plant will produce sapphire glass, that much we know. Tim Cook confirmed it while speaking to ABC. Now, Apple already uses tiny amounts of sapphire glass for the home button and to keep the camera safe from scratches, and though it’s technically possible that this is all the company needs the new plant for, that seems highly unlikely. Word on the street says Apple will kick things up a notch and make the entire display out of this tough material. This week, Canonical’s CEO complained that Apple had bought up a three year supply of a display Canonical wanted for the Ubuntu Edge. Apple’s either has a huge need for sapphire glass or is stockpiling for a future product while keeping the product away from its competitors.
The iPhone 5S the biggest iPhone to date with a screen that measures four inches in size. Despite this fact, it’s still quite small compared to other current generation smartphones. Though Samsung’s Galaxy Note was considered huge not too long ago, a 5-inch phone is a fairly common sight, and Apple could go after the phablet lovers with the iPhone 6. There’s talk that Apple might ship multiple different sizes of iPhone with the iPhone 6, including a 5.5-inch version. The most recent rumors say screens for the iPhone 6 will start production in May. According to Reuters, May will signal the start of production for the iPhone 6 displays and a 4.7-inch panel will be manufactured first, with a 5.5-inch model coming later. While we think Apple is unlikely to ship so many iPhones (it wasn’t until last year that the company introduced a second iPhone to stand alongside the flagship model), it’s not outside the realm of possibility that we’ll see a larger iPhone. Steve Jobs was the one who pooh-poohed larger screen sizes and Steve isn’t around anymore. Remember when Steve said we’d need to file our fingers down for a 7-inch tablet? Yeah, us too.
Backing up claims that Apple will ship two phones is KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a proven track record with Apple rumors. He says the 4.7-inch model will feature a 4.7-inch Retina panel with 1334 x 750 pixels or 326 ppi. That’s not quite as dense as offerings from competing smartphone manufacturers (such as HTC or Oppo), but it’s exactly the same as the iPhone 4/4S/5/5S and 4th and 5th generation iPod touch. Kuo also talked about a second 5.5-inch 1,920 x 1,080-pixel 401 ppi iPhone with similar specs to the 4.7-inch model but a battery that measures 50 % - 70% bigger than the battery inside the iPhone 5S.
An unnamed source sent several photos to 9to5Mac showing that the 4.7-inch iPhone model will feature glass covers in black and white. These photos also reveal a new hole mounted to the left of the ear speaker, which could be a relocated front-facing camera or a proximity sensor. The ear speaker is also slightly larger than what’s seen in the current iPhone 5/5s/5c crop.
On July 8, a leaked video revealed that Apple plans to use a sapphire crystal display on the upcoming iPhone 6 models instead of Corning's Gorilla Glass. Marques Brownlee provided the leaked footage, showing that this front layer is as thin as a sheet of paper. He uses a knife and a set of keys to demonstrate the panel's resistance to scratches, and also places the panel under his shoe half way and tries to bend it with his hand with zero breakage. “It’s an insanely clear, supper-high quality material,” he states as he move the panel to and from the video camera, showing that there’s no distortion when the panel is placed over the camera’s lens. The version roughhoused in the video measures 4.7-inches and sports a black frame.
iPhone CPU, SoC Chipset, and RAM
The iPhone 5S was noteworthy for its 64-bit A7 chip manufactured on the 28 nm process. Given the iPhone 5S has only been on the market for six months, this chip is still a really fresh piece of technology. However, with Samsung rumored to have a 64-bit chip of its own on the way, Apple may want to up its game. No surprise then that the latest scuttlebutt points to an Apple A8 chip manufacture red on the 20 nm process powering the iPhone 6. Further talk of a 64-bit A8 points to Apple using Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) to manufacturer the A8. This would be a move away from rival smartphone maker Samsung, which Apple has used for production of its chips in the past. TSMC hasn’t confirmed the news, and neither has Apple (of course). KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says the device will have just 1 GB of RAM, the same as last year's iPhone 5S.
iPhone Form Factor
So, the iPhone might have a bigger display, but that’s not to say it will be too much bigger over all. The rumor mill is churning out whisperings of an edge-to-edge of minimal bezel display, which could theoretically increase the size of the display without making the phone too big in your hand. The real question is whether Apple is willing to ditch the physical home key or make it smaller. We’d say no, considering it just added fingerprint recognition with the iPhone 5S, but the home key could be reduced in size or moved to a different location on the iPhone 6. Again, that's unlikely but if Apple wants a bigger display without significantly increasing the size of the phone, this would be one way to do it. One analyst even claims to have gotten wind of such a prototype. For physical size, the latest rumors say we'll see 150 millimeters long and 85 millimeters wide. This is considerably bigger than the 123.8 mm x 58.6 mm iPhone 5S.
As far as casing is concerned, it's hard to predict what Apple will do. The iPhone 2G was metal, then the 3G brought plastic casing that continued through to the 3GS. The iPhone 4 gave us the glass backing, which was also present in the 4S. The iPhone 5 saw Apple bring back the metal with an aluminum casing, and the iPhone 5S has the same chassis. Discounting the iPhone 5C (Apple brought back the plastic we saw with the 3G but in a range of colors), Cupertino seems to introduce a new case with each full upgrade of iPhone. Word on the street is that the iPhone 6 will also feature a metal chassis, but that it will be lighter and thinner than the current iPhone 5S.
Recent images leaked to Chinese social media site Weibo point to design so slim that the camera actually protrudes from the back of the case (like the current generation iPod touch). Though there's no way to know if these images are authentic, they reportedly come from sources within Foxconn. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a proven track record with Apple rumors, said in a recent note to analysts that the iPhone 6 would feature side bezels reduced by between 10 and 20 percent and an overall thinner form factor than the current generation iPhone. Kuo also said the sleep button would move to the top of the iPhone 6.
Meanwhile, Unbox Therapy has published a video on YouTube with a hands-on video of what purports to be a case for the iPhone 6. While this is no where near as exciting as a leaked photo or video of the phone itself, the case does tell us quite a bit about the phone that it will protect. For instance, if this case is the real deal, we now know that the power button has been moved to the right side of the phone as opposed to the top right corner. There’s also tweaks to the design of the volume rocker. Perhaps most intriguing is the thickness of the case itself. Cases often add bulk, but iPhone 6 users will be glad to see that this case is actually thinner than the current generation iPhone. That means even with your phone shrouded in gummy plastic, your new iPhone is still going to be significantly slimmer than the last version. Check the video below for yourself.
French blog Nowhereelse has photos of what is supposedly a dummy mockup of the iPhone 6. This mock up unit apparently originated from China and features curved edges and an extremely slim profile. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer anything particularly juicy in terms of buttons or aesthetics because it’s just a hunk of black plastic. We also don't get a look at the right side, so we can't see if the change of power button position that we've heard about before is present in this mock up. However, the photos do give us an idea of how the phone will look in someone’s hand. And it certainly looks like it would fit in the case Unbox Therapy showed us.
The iPhone 6 camera could be something very special. According to a patent filing published last week, the company is developing technology for “super-resolution based on optical image stabilization.” The technology works by taking the OIS process, which changes the optical path to the camera sensor according to your movement, and making use of multiple optical paths to capture several images at once. These photos are combined to form one image with a higher resolution than a single image. From the look of the patent filing, this would be an optional mode for the camera, similar to HDR, as opposed to a standard setting or the default camera mode.
With each new iPhone, we expect increased functionality. For iPhone 6, this may come in the form of sensors that can detect the weather. ESM-China analyst Sun Changxu cites sources close to the matter in reporting that this year’s iPhone could come equipped with sensors that can automatically read temperature, humidity and air pressure. There's also talk of NFC, at long last.
No doubt this will tie into iOS 8 and the rumors regarding the next major version of Apple’s mobile operating system. Though we just got iOS 7.1, rumors about iOS 8 and what it will bring are coming thick and fast. These include, a new notification center, a new iTunes Radio app, a smarter Siri, a bump in performance, and improved mapping functionality. This smarter Siri will likely take advantage of these new sensors when giving users the weather breakdown.
What About the iPhone 5C?
Apple last year introduced us to a completely new breed of iPhone. A slightly lower-spec'd smartphone wrapped in plastic of varying colors, the device looked completely different to any iPhone we'd ever seen before. So is Apple going to introduce a second generation model this year? It's complicated.
Recent rumors, this time coming from Macotakara (via AppleInsider), say Apple has chosen 4.7 and 5.7-inch displays for the 2014 iPhones and that both of these devices will be a cross between the iPhone 5C and Apple’s colorful iPod nano. From the sounds of things, these two devices, despite their different screen sizes, will share the same aesthetic. Apple will apparently be keeping the fun colors we saw with the iPhone 5C along with the same rounded edges and buttons, but ditching the plastic in favor of the aluminum body of the iPod nano. What's not immediately clear is if these new phones will be upgraded iPhone 5Cs or if these will be the new flagship iPhone.
If this is to be the flagship, it makes a lot of sense. First of all, two sizes to cater to the phablet lovers who can’t function with a screen less than 5-inches (and similarly, a sub-5-inch option for those that can’t stand huge phones). Second, it brings Apple back from having two very different iPhones and closer to one device (albeit one that’s available in multiple configurations). It could also solve the problem that the iPhone 5C is somewhat cheap in feel. For a long time before it was revealed, the iPhone 5C was rumored to be a budget or entry level phone, which it is not. Adding the aluminum body will give this iPhone a premium feel, and the colors still allow for a certain amount of jaunty personalization.
Of course, there's mention that these aren't supposed to replace the iPhone 5C but exist alongside it. Does that mean there's also going to be an iPhone 6? Or are these the iPhone 6? Suddenly we feel like there is far too many iPhones.