What’s the Latest On the iPhone 5?

iPhone 5 Connector

As we approach the final few months before the iPhone 5 is released, the rumours are flying ever faster. One week people are claiming one thing; the next they’re stating the opposite. It’s difficult to pull fact from fiction, but there are certain ways of telling; this week, we’ve rounded up the most popular rumours currently doing the rounds, with the hope of working out which ones will actually tell us something useful about how the iPhone 5 may pan out. Of course, none of this is a dead cert, but what’s the harm in a little idle speculation?

“The iPhone 5 has gone into production.”

Many sources on the net this week are saying that the iPhone 5 has gone into production; since the phone’s release date isn’t until October or so, this seems a little premature, especially for Apple. Jonathan Geller, from Boy Genius Report, has said that this sounds extremely doubtful. According to Geller, Apple pushes its products through multiple stages, including the ‘engineering verification test’ stage and the ‘design verification test’ phase, before the final design enters production.

In other words, Apple is very much obsessive when it comes to testing its handsets as much as possible, and it’s unlikely that the phone’s production has started.

“Apple’s sixth-generation iPhone is currently in the EVT3 [‘Engineering Verification Test’] stage, the third revision of the engineering test stage, and has not yet entered the DVT stage.” says Geller.

“It’s certainly possible Apple is producing engineering samples of new iPhones and has started manufacturing device enclosures to iron out any problems with the manufacturing line before real production starts, but that’s all that is happening at this point in time.”

This means that while test versions of the iPhone may well have been produced, the finished version that you will ultimately hold in your hands three months from now is actually nowhere near the final stages of production. It needs further testing, and will probably be much better, sleeker and smoother in its final version. The current versions are more like rough stereotypes taped together with duct tape and blu-tac – or something like that.

“The iPhone 5 will feature a much improved battery.”

This is mostly speculation, but it is based on some pretty solid facts. The iPhone 5’s rumoured features – that is, a bigger display, 4G in the US, quad-core power – are all going to be power-sucking leeches when it comes to the battery, so it’s not a huge leap of faith to conclude that the iPhone 5 is going to have to include a bigger, better battery.

Noam Kedem, VP of marketing at Leyden Energy, has stated that one of the biggest problems facing Apple’s design of the new iPhone is that while silicon is increasing in performance the lithium-ion technology used in mobile batteries has not changed in 20 years. This stagnant technology will impose severe limitations on what Apple can achieve with its design and spec sheet.

“The iPhone 5 will feature a larger screen with in-cell technology.”

This is likely going to mean that the iPhone 5’s battery is physically bigger and heavier, which may explain why Apple have finally decided to opt for a large display; the necessity for a bigger battery means that a large handset is necessary, and so a larger display, at this point, makes the most sense. Kedem thinks that Apple will continue with the same approach to battery in the iPhone 5 as they have used in the iPhone 4S, but capitalising on the extra space granted by a larger display and, perhaps, by a thinner display, too – since this week’s rumours also include the fact that Apple may well have a display in the works which fuses touch-screen technology into the LCD itself.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple has already ordered large quantities of “in-cell” touch panels from Sharp and Japan Display ready to be implemented in the iPhone 5. In-cell touch panels are much thinner than current LCD screens as the capacitive sensors are contained within the LCD display itself, rather than another layer sitting on top. This could potentially result in a much slimmer and lightweight iPhone later this year. While the screen may or may not use this in-cell technology, it seems almost certain at this point that the iPhone 5 will be the first Apple phone to move away from a 3.5 inch display in favour of a larger 4 inch screen.

“The iPhone 5’s front-facing camera will be centred to the middle of the phone.”

This one’s kind of 50-50; there’s no solid evidence that it’s true, but it’s pretty believable. Apple has already introduced a number of upgrades to FaceTime in iOS 6, including the support for video calls over data connections. A Chinese site called Apple Pro has posted pics of what is supposedly the case of the iPhone 5. The leaked cases are in white and black, and show a front-facing camera centred to the middle of the handset, which should make video-chatting and profile shots much easier to work with. It looks similar to the iPhone 4S, but bigger, with a taller screen and a smaller SIM. Which leads us to the next rumour….

“The iPhone 5 will feature a tiny SIM card.”

This week, the Financial Times reported that European mobile carriers are beginning to create stocks of a new miniature SIM card. This is supposed to be ahead of the release of the Apple iPhone 5, which is rumoured to use a nano-SIM, as opposed to the regular cards or the micro-SIMs used on the iPhone 4 and 4S.

Apple was one of the first phone manufacturers to adopt the smaller micro-SIM design introduced on the iPhone 4, and has been one of the most ardent supporters of an even smaller SIM card. The new nano-SIM design was approved by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) earlier this year and is set to become the new industry standard in the coming months.

Jonathan Geller, the Boy Genius mentioned above, has ‘confirmed’ this rumour, saying that multiple carriers in the US have informed BGR that Apple has been supplying them with nano-SIM adapters so that the new technology can be tested on their networks and be ready to use later this year.

Given that within the tech world, many consider Geller to be – well, pretty much on the money with most things he calls – there’s a good chance that this one may be true. While I’m not sure how exciting it is to have a smaller SIM card, since in my eyes that just makes it easier to lose in the cracks between the floor boards, it will certainly help Apple to maximise all the internal space that’s needed for a bigger battery. I suppose it also makes the iPhone 5 seem even more elite, which, for a lifestyle brand like Apple, is always desirable.

“The iPhone 5 will have a new dock connector.”

Apple has employed the same 30 pin dock connector on all of its iOS devices since the third generation iPod, but numerous leaks suggest that the iPhone 5 will introduce a new, smaller, 19 pin connector. This reason for this is supposedly to allow Apple to move the headphone socket from the top of the iPhone to the bottom, but it could potentially have major implications for loyal iPhone enthusiasts. A redesigned dock connector would make existing iPhone accessories obsolete, and it could cost a substantial amount of money to have these accessories upgraded for use with the iPhone 5. Thankfully, it seems quite likely that Apple will release an adaptor, allowing older accessories to work with the new 19 pin design.

All of the leaks that have appeared so far seem to converge around the same pieces of information, including a larger screen, redesigned dock connector, and repositioned front camera. While the device featured in these leaked images is most likely not the finished product, they do provide us with a glimpse of what Apple has planned for the iPhone this year. Current estimates place the release date at some point in October and, even though this is still a few months away, anticipation for the device is already far exceeding that achieved by the iPhone 4S in 2011. By all accounts this looks set to be the most successful iPhone launch yet.

Simon Drew writes for Best Mobile Contracts, a great place to compare phone deals on contract or pay as you go.