Leaked Photos Suggest Full-Body Makeover for iPhone 5
May 30, 2012 9:01 AM PT
Several photos emerged Tuesday that appear to tip off features in the upcoming version of Apple's iPhone.
The photos originated at 9to5Mac, repair firms uBreakiFix and iFixyouri, and SW-Box, a Hong Kong -based seller of mobile phone accessories. They show the back plate of what appears to be a new model of the iPhone and some internal parts.
As with most leaks like this, there's no way to verify the authenticity of the photos or if what's in them will be part of a final product, an engineering prototype or is just bogus.
However, a major change revealed in the photos is an apparent modification in the device's docking connector. It's smaller -- a move that could enable Apple to increase the size and quality of the phone's speakers.
If Apple changes the dock connector, it could create headaches for some segments of the iPhone's accessory industry.
From the photos, the cutout for the connector looks like it could accommodate a micro USB port or a proprietary port that's smaller than the one on previous models, according to Jim Mielke, vice president of engineering for ABI Research.
"Either way it would be a problem for existing peripherals, unless Apple ships an adapter cable of some sort with the new phone," he told MacNewsWorld.
He added that shrinking the dock connector isn't necessary for increasing the size of the iPhone's speakers. "Apple had room to mess with the speakers before," he said. "There was plenty of room inside the old phones to make the speakers bigger."
'Quick and Dirty Fix'
The photos also suggest the next iPhone will have a longer display.
Changing the display size could make things difficult for developers, according to Miroslav Djuric, chief informaton architect for iFixit, a parts provider for Apple products.
"Once you change the length of the screen and not the width, then you're going to have a completely different resolution than you had before," he told MacNewsWorld. "So applications will look extra wide or extra scrunched, depending on the orientation."
On the other hand, maintaining the same width while elongating the screen means legacy apps could be displayed on the device in a kind of letterbox without rewriting the software. "That would be a quick and dirty fix," Djuric observed.
More Durable Body
Boosting the size of the iPhone not only allows for a larger display, but also a larger battery -- a necessity for 4G mobile technologies like LTE. From what's been seen on Android phones, LTE sucks up battery life, Djuic noted.
"To combat that, they're putting in bigger batteries into the phones," he continued. "One of the reasons this iPhone is longer is to incorporate a bigger battery inside so when it's running on LTE, people aren't calling Apple with complaints about their phones lasting an hour."
Another change appearing in the photos is a return to a metal alloy, likely aluminum, for the back of the phone.
With the iPhone 4, Apple went to a glass back panel for the handset, which increased its fragility. "That glass back panel breaks all the time," uBreakiFix communications director Adam Nations told MacNewsWorld.
Djuric added: "You can scratch aluminum. It will dent if you impact it on concrete, but it's not going to shatter."
"If nothing else," he continued, "it's going to be nicer for people if they drop the phone."
The photos also show that the phone's antenna -- an embarrassing source of controversy for Apple when it released the iPhone 4 -- is incorporated into the back plate.
"It looks like Apple is definitely going to improve the antenna design," Djuric observed. "If they relocate the antenna at the back and make it bigger, that's going to improve things."
The photos also show a unibody design, similar to what Apple uses for its notebook computers; movement of the earphone jack from the top to the bottom of the phone; and relocation of one of the phone's stereo microphones from the top of the device to a space between its camera lens and flash.
"The microphone on the top is quite inconvenient," Djuric contended. "I've noticed that microphone is obscured by my thumb when I use the phone's camera."
'Doubling Down' on Secrecy
Information leaks about new products appears to be a growing problem for Apple.
"Apple right now is leaking internal information much more than it did than when Steve Jobs was alive," Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst with the Enderle Group, told MacNewsworld in an interview earlier this month.
That's giving more credibility to the information in the leaks, he added.
Apple's uncharacteristic information leakage has apparently caught the notice of its CEO Tim Cook, too. At The Wall Street Journal's All things D conference this week, he declared that Apple would be "doubling down on secrecy" when it comes to new product releases.