My iPhone 5 Predictions

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Iphone-4-recall

Ah, it’s that time of year again. We’re seeing the emergence of humidity, flowers, and iPhone predictions. Having been freed from Apple Retails’s NDA for a good while now, I’ve been eager to publicly speculate about unreleased Apple gadgetry. Below, I will attempt to give you realistic expectations for the next iPhone.

A5 processor

Does anyone doubt this? iPad 2 has the new A5 processor and Apple is apparently allowing game developers access to A5 iPhones. The mystery is how Apple will leverage a processor that is twice as fast as the iPhone 4’s chip. More background tasks? Better graphics? Only time will tell.

FaceTime HD camera

This seems to be a highly touted feature of the new MacBook Pros and iMacs. Our family FaceTimes several times a week with distant relatives, and we’d welcome HD. With iPhone 5’s increased horsepower and a slightly upgraded front-facing camera, there’s little reason for FaceTime HD not to appear on the next iPhone.

Thunderbolt

Again, this is a feature of new Macs that will inevitably make it to the iPhone someday, but will that be with the launch of iPhone 5? Thunderbolt is capable of transferring data ten times faster than USB. Imagine syncing your phone in a couple seconds, as opposed to several minutes. Certainly not an urgent need, but I’d enjoy having the luxury. The former Apple Retail employee inside of me wonders how much time would be saved restoring iPhones. (Smaller Apple Stores must restore at least a hundred iPhones a day.) The length of Genius Bar appointments would be cut drastically with the advent of Thunderbolt to the iPhone. This might also usher in accessories even more creative than the elusive iGrill

Storage

iPhone 5 will be available in 32 and 64GB capacities, me thinks.

Same external form factor

Many will disagree with me here, and there are even some rumors hyping a new design for the next iPhone, but I think its form factor will remain unchanged. When the iPhone 4 launched, we were all mesmerized by its appearance. It is simply the coolest looking gadget I’ve ever owned and I still can’t bring myself to hide it inside a case. It’s hot. During the Q&A after the iPhone 4 keynote, I have a faint memory of Steve Jobs saying they’ll stick with this form for the next year or two. (If you can find that quote, major props!) They will keep the design for a couple reasons. First, it will be Apple’s way of saying, “See, we are still confident that our antenna design is reliable, durable, and space-saving. Antennagate was a non-issue. We don’t care what Consumer Report thinks.” Second, maintaining manufacturing process reduces costs. Keeping the same form each year must save them plenty of money. Third, come on, it’s such a killer design! Let me remind you the form of the iPhone 3GS was identical to the iPhone 3G. (And no, I don’t think the next iPhone will be called iPhone 4S. The “3GS” was and is very confusing to most consumers.)

GSM/CDMA chipset

There’s been a lot of talk as to whether the iPhone 5 will come in different GSM and CDMA flavors, or if it’ll be one phone, capable of doing both cell technologies. For the normal consumer, I’m not sure why this matters. I suppose for simplicity of choice, store stock levels, and speediness of service repairs, it might be helpful; but because the American cell phone market revolves around contracts, folks are not going to be swapping networks anyway.

What about that T-Mobile iPhone?

Honestly, I don’t think there’s much going on here. It is no secret that Apple has active development on various branches of the iPhone, capable of joining each of the major American cell companies. It’s smart to be prepared, right? This is such a volatile market, and the last thing Apple wants is to be caught off guard by political or technological problems caused by their cell partners. (Take for example Apple’s migration from PowerPC based Macs to Intel.) The T-Mobile iPhone is most likely one of those prototype phones which would only see the light of day if something drastic were to happen with the other American GSM carrier: AT&T.

Release date

I won’t go into details. It’s fairly apparent that Apple has intentionally let it leak that the iPhone 5 isn’t coming until September. No one expects it to come any sooner. My speculation is that this has more to do with Verizon iPhone and the white iPhone. We all know what it’s like to purchase something from Apple only to see the next generation come out within a month or two. If Apple were to release an iPhone 5 in June or July, it would appear as if they were intentionally setting up their Verizon customers for disappointment. I agree with the Chairman, Apple will announce iPhone 5 and iOS 5 at WWDC this summer, with its release being in September alongside refreshed iPods.

One more thing...

Each iPhone release has had a major wow factor. Something which gives the enthusiasts a reason to ditch last year’s model for the brand new one. Last year, it was the Retina Display and FaceTime. The year prior, it was the speedier processor, voice commands (which no one uses), and video camera. I’m not sure any of my predictions above could be classified as “wow factors” which has me wondering what else Apple could do.

Over the next couple months, as iPhone 5 manufacturing ramps up, I imagine rumors of new technologies will begin to appear. NFC technology has made the rounds, but I’m doubtful it will come to fruition only because I can’t see how Apple could deploy it successfully. (NFC is a way to use your gadget as a credit card, swiping it at a compatible register.) Thankfully, Apple isn’t limited by my imagination. Very smart people have been thinking about iPhone 5 for a very long time. My lack of imagination is made up by their abundant track record. So who knows.

Certainly the yet to be announced iOS 5 will also have enough wow factors for us all, but I can’t foresee which of its features would be dependent upon iPhone 5 hardware. By the way, I think iOS 5 will integrate with Apple’s upcoming iCloud service, Lion’s AirDrop technology, and have a redesigned notification system.

 

So there you have it. iPhone 5 will certainly sport features we’ve already seen from iPad 2 and the new Macs. Not many rumors indicate the introduction of major new technologies, but Apple is in the business of razzle dazzle. If you'd like to chat about these things, email me or say hey on Twitter.

[UPDATE: Someone mentioned 4G as a possible wow factor, and I was a bit ashamed that I didn't even mention it. From what I hear, 4G is hardly mature enough for Apple to consider deploying. It sucks battery and isn't even available in many major US cities yet. I think that 3G was left out of the first iPhone for the same reasons why we still won't see 4G in the iPhone 5.]