The rumor mill is once again operating at full Tilt in anticipation of this fall's release of the iPhone 6. New tidbits of information are floating to the surface on almost an hourly basis, making it an exercise in endurance to stay on top of them all. It's always important to take such intel with a grain of salt, but for now, here's a roundup of some of the most persistent whispers we've heard thus far.
Not content to drop just one new product on the waiting world, Apple is expected to release two versions of its as-yet-unnamed sixth generation iPhone (heretofore referred to as the iPhone 6). The first version is scheduled for release in September of 2014, with the second slated to follow in 2015.
Original reports indicated that the second version of the iPhone 6 -- which some have pegged (Google Translate) as the "iPhone Air" -- might hit market before the end of 2014, but recent news states this will now take place after the new year. This would give Apple and its battery maker more time to work out the unique design specifications required of the phone's reportedly thinner chassis.
In answer to the growing demand for larger displays, Apple appears set to bridge the gap in size between the iPhone 5 and the iPad mini by bringing a bigger iPhone to market. Various reports contend that this larger device would come alongside a more standard-sized one. The first release will purportedly include a 4.7-inch display. The second would go head-to-head against phablets like Samsung's Galaxy Note line and likely contain a 5.5-inch display.
According to Gerry Purdy, Chief Mobile Analyst for Compass Intelligence, this growth spurt would be welcome amongst iPhone users. "It's obvious that a larger screen seems to be of higher preference," Purdy says. "We recently did a simple market research study of about 600 users, and the results were overwhelming.
"A large percentage, about 70 percent, said they want a bigger display than iPhone presently offers. It's something Apple can no longer ignore. If their customers want it, they're eventually going to have to delight them. I think a larger screen is a no-brainer, but how they execute that will be interesting."
Screen resolution is expected to be 1334x750 for the 4.7-inch version and 1920x1080 for the 5.5-inchphablet.
Leave it to rumor mongers to fire off curveballs at every chance, causing us to second guess everything we think we know about the forthcoming iPhone 6. Yet another round of whispers (Google Translate) is suggesting that the new iPhone may break from Apple convention by becoming the first of its kind to feature rounded edges -- not exactly new in the world of smartphones, but certainly new to the iPhone. Curved edges for a more easily palmed handset? Yes, please.
A recent partnering up between Apple and GT Advanced -- one with the express intent of increasing the production of sapphire glass while cutting down on the associated cost of doing so -- could be an indication that upcoming iPhone models may discontinue the use of Corning Gorilla Glass and instead opt for thin sheets of sapphire.
Sapphire crystal is presently used in the iPhone 5s for the home button and the camera lens, but it hasn't been explored further to this point because of the associated high cost of mass production. If it does become the norm, though, it would presumably make any future iPhone displays that much sturdier.
Along with reports that the second edition of the iPhone 6 will have a 5.5-inch display, it's also expected that the design will include a significantly more slender chassis. According to this video from Unbox Therapy, it's suggested that the 5.5-inch version will be 6.1mm thick, or about the thickness of the latest generation iPod touch. If true, it would noticeably slender than the iPhone 5s, which measures in at 7.6mm thick. This latest rumor is fueled by the leak of a third-party design of an apparent iPhone 6 case.
Although nobody really expects a sixth generation iPhone to be cheap, some say that its cost will likely be $100 more than the current iPhone 5s.
According to Purdy, a substantial price hike wouldn't only be par for the course, but also highly necessary -- for a bigger device, at least. "It's going to cost Apple more to develop an iPhone with a larger screen," he says. "It makes sense that will multiply itself into a higher price point on the product."
Frankly, we'd be surprised if a new 4.7-inch device cost anything more than usual, but as Purdy notes, a more expensive iPhablet doesn't seem too far outside the realm of possibility. Either way, it'd be unwise to expect any new Apple phone to be a bargain.
Considering that camera quality saw improvement with the release of the iPhone 5s, rumors are now swirling about the possibility of further camera enhancements for the iPhone 6. This is something that Purdy expects to see.
"There's a lot of opportunity for improvement in the iPhone camera," he says. "This is a major area where Apple could innovate and do a lot of things better, and probably will."
Some rumors say that Apple has contracted with optical image stabilization gyroscope manufacturer InvenSense, which would indicate the possible inclusion of hardware to minimize image shake on videos. Yet another one has it that the iPhone 6 will come with electronic image stabilization, which would better lend itself to keeping the device slim.
A more energy efficient and smaller processor chip is expected to accompany the release of the iPhone 6 into the market. The rumored 20-nanometer A8 chip, primarily manufactured by TSMC, is expected to contain 1 GB of RAM. Other likely features include Apple's Touch ID fingerprint sensor that was rolled out with the release of the iPhone 5s, which would almost certainly come alongside a new version of iOS.
Purdy sees Touch ID as a particularly big opportunity for Apple to raise the stakes in its efforts to reclaim smartphone market dominance. "Apple's true signature is the ability to do things differently from the rest of the industry," he says.
"I envision them focusing on how to get further benefit from fingerprint recognition, and working on a way to integrate that technology into more than just being able to buy songs from iTunes," Purdy says. "Mobile commerce is a wide open space that no one has completely locked up. I expect Apple to take the lead there."
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