Here we go again: About a year ago Mashable ran a story with almost the exact same headline as this one. In October 2011, Apple unveiled its fifth-generation iPhone to the world, except it wasn’t called the iPhone 5. It was the iPhone 4S, an incremental update that had been predicted, although that was after many months of wild speculation.
Sound familiar? We’ve been hearing for months that we’ll see the iPhone 5 this fall. Except this time it’s the real deal — when Apple sent out invitations for its Sept. 12 event, the shadow of the “12” was clearly made to look like the number five, with the accompanying caption “it’s almost here.” As my colleague Chris Taylor observed, that may not be letting the cat out of the bag, but it’s kind of making the bag transparent.
By all reports, when we finally see the real iPhone 5 (technically Apple’s sixth iPhone), it’s going to be the biggest redesign of the product since Steve Jobs unveiled the first model way back in January 2007. It’s also going to be the most lucrative for the company, if past history is any indication — every new iPhone has outsold the previous by a wide margin.
But what features is iPhone 5 expected to have, and what else will be on deck for the event? Only Apple knows for sure, but based on online chatter, which has converged over the past few weeks, we can make some educated guesses. Here’s what’s (likely) on tap for Apple’s big iPhone show:
The Skinny on iPhone 5
The star of this event is obviously the iPhone 5, which reportedly brings a new design to the iPhone to accommodate a different-size screen. Reports and leaked images point to the new model sporting a 4-inch screen with an aspect ratio that will make the display longer. That would allow for five rows of apps (plus the “permanent” row on the bottom). The supplier is rumored to be Sharp.
Besides the large screen, the biggest new feature on the iPhone 5 will be LTE connectivity. There’s simply no way Apple won’t include this feature, and it’s been all but confirmed through leaked images of the phone’s motherboard and other reports. Add to that the simple fact that, thanks to progress, the design compromises necessary for LTE that Tim Cook used to be worried about have been largely eliminated.
So the iPhone 5 will have LTE, but what networks will it run on? Since there are versions of the iPad that run on Verizon and AT&T’s LTE networks, you can bet solidly on those being included, but Sprint looks just slightly less sure. If it’s so equipped, it will be Apple’s first LTE Sprint product. That said, Sprint just launched nationwide LTE on Monday, so the network is ready and waiting.
There’s been a lot of buzz around Apple shrinking the dock connector on future iOS devices, and it looks like the iPhone 5 will be the first one with a smaller, 19-pin jack. The current 30-pin dock connector is a holdover from the iPhone’s predecessor, the iPod (although the first iPods were FireWire-only). It’s also fairly large as connectors go — certainly compared with the micro USB ports on many of today’s phones — and its imminent replacement is likely a move to ensure Apple can make the iPhone even thinner than it is already.
One feature you can probably not expect in the iPhone 5 is near-field communication (NFC), which can enable mobile payments and effortless “touch” pairing with devices like Bluetooth earpieces (as long as they have NFC, too). While many Android phones now include it, Apple is said to be skipping the feature in iPhone 5. If that’s true, it’s probably because it’s still a relatively unknown (and unused) feature for many users, and Apple’s waiting to put its own mobile-payment strategy in place before including NFC.
Some rumors say Apple will make another dramatic improvement to a long-standing holdover from the iPod days — the widely derided earbuds that come with every iPhone. Apple could replace them with a new vented in-ear design, but there’s not much to go on here other than a patent Apple filed in April this year.
Finally, there’s the on-sale date, which we can say with almost complete certainty will be Sept. 21. When Apple unveils something on a Wednesday, the most common release date is the following Friday (almost every iPhone has launched on a Friday). Since all rumors indicate the iPhone 5 is now in production and about to ship, Sept. 21 must be the day.
New iPods: Apple’s September events have traditionally been about the iPod line, and there hasn’t been a significant upgrade to the lines since 2010. The iPod Touch typically mirrors design changes in the iPhone, so there’s a strong possibility of a new model with a larger screen and even thinner design. New iPod Nanos and Shuffles sporting the new dock connector are also possibilities.
iOS 6: Apple already unveiled iOS 6 back at its spring event, but now it’s ready for prime time. Apple will no doubt announce its general availability, which could be as early as today. There will also be some more detail on the features, Siri’s new abilities, and maybe even a small update about OS X Mountain Lion — we’re still waiting for that Facebook integration, after all.
Sprint iPad: Sprint didn’t get an invitation to Apple’s iPad unveiling in the spring, but that was before it had a full-fledged LTE network. Apple could finally let Sprint into the iPad club with a 4G LTE model today, though even if that’s in the works, the two companies might be saving it for another Apple event later in the fall.
One More Thing… Doubtful
That event being the unveiling of the iPad Mini, a smaller-screen version of the iPad. There have been a lot of rumors and alleged leaks about this product, so it’s extremely likely it exists, although most signs say the li’l iPad will headline its own show sometime in October. And the chance of a new Apple TV (either box or actual set) being unveiled tomorrow looks very small.
Still, you never know. Tim Cook could unveil one of those spider-like iPhone 5 wrist creatures. Or he could just walk out, shout “Syke!” and gleefully tell the world there will be no new iPhones this year before maniacally laughing as he exits the stage.
But probably not. As much as Cook promised to “double down” on secrecy last spring, Apple is the most scrutinized company in tech — if not the world — and that’s why we already know a good amount of what the iPhone 5 will be. We don’t know everything, though, and Apple will surely surprise us with a new treat, even if it’s minor.
What do you think it will be? Shout out your predictions in the comments.