What is the iPhone 5? Or is it the iPhone 4S?

Two questions that I often get asked are, “when is the next iPhone coming?” and “what’ll be different about it?”. I’ve had a list of ideas that I’ve been throwing around for a while, and I decided to finally jot these down.

First off – when does the next iPhone ship? September. No, I don’t know for sure. But things we know – iPod touches always ship around the time of Apple’s Fall “Music Event” where new iPods are traditionally announced. The reality is that the iPhone and iPod Touch are largely replacing the traditional iPod – combined with iCloud, it makes more sense than ever to treat the iPhone as the patriarch of the iPod family, and bring it out at the same event, where iOS 5 will most likely be announced as released. These may both be available immediately or take a few weeks to hit the market – but I think that the former will be the case.

If you track Apple, you know that they have largely been following a revolutionary/evolutionary cycle of devices biennially. The 3GS was evolutionary to the 3G, and I predict that Apple will do the same with the next phone, which will probably be called the iPhone 4S or some derivative of 4. Evolutionary upgrades every other year can understandably help Apple keep the platform interesting year over year, without requiring them to invest in huge R&D and manufacturing churn annually.

So what do I expect in the iPhone 4S? I expect it to be evolutionary.  from a hardware perspective, I expect the following:
  1. A5 processor (same as iPad 2 – improves responsiveness and gameplay)
  2. Improved graphics (same as iPad 2)
  3. Better battery (same life) to deal with new A5 – hence the aluminum back – take up less space.
  4. 1GB RAM (this one is iffy) Increased multitasking has asked more and more of the dedicated RAM in iPhones and iPads. This one is high-risk that it might not happen.
  5. Larger screen (same resolution) – This has been on the rumor board for a while – physically stretch the dimensions of the screen, while keeping the resolution the same (don’t break apps)
  6. Aluminum or other metal back – Allows Apple to reduce manufacturing cost, thin out the device, simplify the “white vs. black” manufacturing complexity, etc.
  7. Thinner and lighter (a-la iPad 2) – Look at the iPad marketing materials. I think a lot of what you see will be applicable to the next iPhone.
  8. NOT a global phone – still per-chipset design. NO LTE. LTE isn’t ready yet. Apple’s largest carrier in the US has no 4G coverage, and frankly, 4G isn’t there yet. I think 2012 will be the year of the 4G iPhone, not 2011.
  9. No NFC – I don’t think Apple is ready to evangelize NFC to the world. They’ll let Google and others establish the infrastructure and eat the cost, then embed it into phones if or when it makes sense.
  10. Better back camera – Perhaps HD-capable video and photo.
  11. 1080p playback (as with iPad)
  12. Mirroring to Apple TV (as with iPad)
Most of the software changes have already been announced, but Apple may announce some more when the iPhone ships, as these would be features of the current or new iPhone, not of iOS 5, per se.
  1. With a significantly enhanced back camera, I am hoping for HD-quality video capture capability.
  2. Accordingly, I expect 1080P playback in iOS to the Apple TV, and the iPhone 4 and 4S will likely both support it. The 4 may not, which would be disappointing, but understandable given the CPU.
  3. AirPlay throughout the OS. I thought Apple TV might become smart. I was wrong. I think that in the end, Apple will treat the Apple TV as a hub, with iPhones interconnecting and working with each other, and mirroring to the screen as we’ve now seen the iPad 2 do.
  4. Full AirPrint. Apple has to finally fix this. When it works, it works so well. Unfortunately the supported devices are artificially limited right now.

    I may be wrong on some of these, I may be right on some. We’ll see.

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