iPhone 5 – The look and features

So here is the current rumor-mill as to what the newest iPhone might look like and what features it will have. So get ready all you iPhony’s!

A Larger 4-inch Screen: The desire for a larger-screened iPhone 5 started as early as the summer of 2010, when iPhone 4 users looked at their screens, then looked at some of the big Droid slabs, and started to covet a larger touch surface and viewing area. With the smartphone market trending toward larger, mini-tablet designs, a 4+ inch screen on the iPhone 5 is plausible. Apple may also increase the screen size while keeping the chassis of the iPhone 5 the same size by going with an edge-to-edge screen. 

E-Ink/Retina Display: Along with a larger screen, iPhone users have also been hoping for a higher screen resolution and retina display for the iPhone 5. In fact, this was also a desire for the iPad 2 as well. But just as the resolution on the iPad 2 wasn’t improved upon, it is unlikely that the iPhone 5 will feature any kind of increased resolution. There is hope, however, that someday the iPhone will feature an E-Ink/Retina hybrid screen that will be able to deliver Kindle-esque resolutions for reading — and switch to the retina display for everything else. 

8 Megapixel Camera: Thanks to some candid comments from Sony’s CEO, it looks probable that the iPhone 5 will see a significant upgrade to its camera sensor. iPhone users have wanted improved cameras for some time now, and Apple now seems ready to deliver. While the front-facing camera will probably remain lo-fi, the rear-facing camera on the iPhone 5 will most likely be upgraded to an 8 megapixel. 

3D Display and Camera: There’s no doubt that 3D technology has risen meteorically over the past couple years, with movies like Avatar, devices like the Nintendo DS, and now 3D digital television moving into mainstream use, in spite of some of the questions that remain about the safety of the technology. Apple has some patents both for a 3D display (similar to the Nintendo DS), but also for a 3D camera, which would be pretty groundbreaking. The 3D angle is definitely the kind of thing that could come from nowhere for the iPhone 5. 

NFC Technology: While some are skeptical of the idea that you could use your iPhone 5 to “wave and pay” for goods, the consensus seems to be that iPhone users are ready for this exciting, new technology. Droid waded into NFC with mixed results, but there is plenty of circumstantial evidence to support the notion that the iPhone 5 will feature Near Field Communication and and support wave and pay functionality. 

Smart Bezel: In spite of the fact that gesture control seems to be the wave of the future, there is some skepticism among iPhone users as to whether or not making the chrome bezel that borders the screen a touchable control surface is a good idea or not. The upside is that it allows users to manipulate apps and games without their fingers blocking the view of the screen. The downside is that it could be yet another touch surface that could be affected by errant touches. It could also spell the end of hopes for an edge-to-edge screen. 

4G LTE: 2011 is no doubt the transition year from 3G into 4G. Reports indicate that there is still not enough 4G LTE infrastructure in place to substantiate a 4G-ready iPhone 5. Chances are, the iPhone 6 will be the first 4G iPhone. The iPhone 5 will include HSPA+ technology, however, which is sort of the “poor man’s 4G” — close-to-4G speeds n the 3G network.

Slide-Out Keyboard: Rumors of a slide-out keyboard for the iPhone 5 are polarizing for iPhone users: some love the prospect of having the option of a slide out keyboard, while others think it defeats the whole purpose of the iPhone being a touchscreen-driven design. Because Steve Jobs has pointedly poo-poo’ed the slide-out keyboard on smartphones in the past, it is unlikely. But there’s always an outside chance that the iPhone 5 could sport a dual touch screen, such as the new Kyrocera Echo.

Removable Battery/Improved Battery Life: iPhone users have complained about the lack of replaceable battery on the iPhone design. And others have complained about the durability of the battery itself. But truth be told, Apple has done wonders to battery technology over the past few years with its impressive array of LiON batteries for their MacBooks, iPad, and beyond. It is doubtful that improving battery technology yet again will be a big priority for the iPhone 5 designers. 

Aluminum/Liquid Metal Back: It looks more and more probable that the iPhone 5 will return to a metal back. This, of course, would not be a new feature, but rather the return to an old feature. But there is a possibility that Apple may use “liquid metal,” which is a kind of amorphous solid metal alloy that is extremely strong, hard-wearing, and withstands thermal cycling. The other cool thing about liquid metal is that it can be shaped similarly to a plastic. Maybe the name is cooler than the feature itself, but it could make for a nice design feature while helping improve any antenna issues. Internal Antenna: Just like the metal back, a return to the internal antenna will also be less of a new feature and more of a “fix” to the iPhone 4′s antenna problem. Apple will be hard-pressed on how to “sell” the return to the internal antenna on the iPhone 5 after downplaying antennagate. If it comes to pass, it should be interesting, which is why I’m giving it one extra point of coolness. 

USB 3.0/Thunderbolt: Kind of a big complaint for the iPhone is its lack of USB and connectivity. Some believe that the iPhone 5 could usher in new connectivity technologies alla USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt. While it may not seem like an outrageously exciting prospect, connectivity is really an unsung hero of great mobile technology, so let’s hope for it. 

Flash: Many iPhone users have been dying to have flash technology become a part of the iPhone experience. Apple, however, seems unwilling to budge on adding the technology, wanting instead to keep technologies in-house. My guess is that Apple will continue to endeavor to come up with a viable, Apple-based alternative to Flash, meaning that the iPhone 5 is unlikely to be flash-ready. Sorry.

64GB of Cloud Storage: Increasing the storage capacity for the iPhone 5 might be finally coming true, as fresh reports indicate that Apple has bought “petrabytes and petrabytes” of storage that would ostensibly support some kind of cloud-based storage solution for iPhone 5 users. Rarely do we have physical evidence to support a rumor, but seeing as Apple is investing in cloud storage, this rumor is looking brighter and brighter. 

2GB of RAM: There had been early rumors that Apple might double the iPhone 5′s RAM capacity from the 512 MB in the current iPhone to two gigabytes of RAM for the iPhone 5 as an accompaniment to the A5 chip and iOS 5. That would indeed be a welcome addition, but I have not heard much from the supplier side of the rumor mill to suggest that 2GB of RAM will materialize on the iPhone 5. 

Carbon Fiber Chassis: Carbon fiber is the wave of the future — it is as strong and protective as light metals, but very light and easy to work with. They’re currently building race cars and jetliners out of this stuff, and rumor has it that the iPhone chassis will someday sport carbon fiber construction as well. Sadly, carbon fiber is probably not going to make it onto the iPhone 5 — again, little in the way of actionable intelligence on the supplier side of things. But it is very probable for the iPhone 6. 

Moved Home Button: There has been a lot of speculation about the home button and whether or not it will be moved on the iPhone 5. While nothing material has arisen in the rumors to confirm this, the addition of the smart bezel feature could be inextricably linked to moving or removing the home button. This is still a big unknown for the iPhone 5. 

HDMI Output Capability: HDMI output was a recent addition to the iPad 2, and it should be welcomed by HD enthusiasts and iPhone users alike, since it indicates that Apple is moving in the right direction of making its mobile devices more connectable. Because we’ve seen the addition of HDMI on the iPad 2, it is likely that it will show up on the iPhone 5 as well. 

AirSync: AirSync may not be the most exciting topic of conversation about the iPhone 5, but it is one of those features that could very well find its way onto the next iPhone. With more and more areas of mobile technology going wireless, the prospect of being able to sync without docking is very exciting indeed, and could free up the iPhone 5 to be more compatible in the area of connectivity. I see AirSynch as a dark horse feature for the iPhone 5, and one that people will be much more excited about than they currently realize.

A5 Chip and iOS 5: It sort of goes without saying that both of these new developments will show up on the iPhone 5. Because we’ve already seen the A5 chipset in the iPad 2, it is a foregone conclusion that we’ll see it on the next iPhone. 

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