What to Expect From iPhone 5 — and When

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Take heart, Apple watchers. The iPad 2 is no longer a mystery, but the iPhone 5 is still veiled in secrecy, and the rumor mill surrounding Apple’s smartphone is speeding up in anticipation of a not-so-distant June unveiling. Here’s an early picture of what to expect:

Dual Core Is Coming

The iPad 2 got a processor upgrade with the introduction of Apple’s dual-core A5 system-on-a-chip. If you think the iPhone will lag in this regard, you’re sorely mistaken. I’d say the inclusion of the A5 processor is just about the only guarantee when it comes to the iPhone 5. It won’t be the world’s first dual-core smartphone, but it will be the best. Recently, developers found evidence that the next iPhone will have the A5 chip in iOS 4.3 firmware code. Apple doesn’t talk about onboard RAM with its devices, but the iPhone 4 had 512 MB, and the original iPad had 256 MB. The iPad 2 got a memory bump to 512 MB so it’s very possible that the iPhone 5 could have 1 GB.

More Space, Please

Another big rumor is storage space, thanks to the discovery of Chinese engineering samples of the iPhone 4 with 64 GB of onboard flash memory. The samples show Apple was at least considering a higher capacity iPhone last year, and hardware limitations weren’t the reason it ended up going with a maximum of 32 GB internal storage. The iPad and iPod touch already offer this much space, and it’s high time the iPhone fell in line. I’d say this is another pretty safe bet for iPhone 5. I know I’d jump at the chance to grab a higher-capacity iPhone, since I live dangerously close to the edge of my current 32 GB.

Big Screen, Same Body

Kevin and I debated whether or not the iPhone 5 would have a larger screen, and I took the position that it would not. A new rumor suggests I might be wrong. A Chinese site is claiming to have received leaked engineering specifications that show a much larger screen for iPhone 5. I was at least partially right in my debate with Kevin, though, since it looks like if Apple increases the screen size, it won’t translate into a larger phone. According to the reports, the overall body design will remain the same, with a nearly edge-to-edge screen boosting display size while keeping the physical footprint the same. This one isn’t a lock by any means, but if Apple can fit a larger screen on the existing body design without sacrificing screen quality or complicating the development process by adding yet another resolution, I think it’ll go for it.

White Sale

There will be a white version of the iPhone, according to Apple and Phil Schiller, who recently tweeted a confirmation to an eager Apple fan. Apple appears to have gotten around any manufacturing issues with white-painted glass, since it released a white-bezelled iPad 2. The only question is whether or not we’ll see a white iPhone before the launch of the iPhone 5, or whether Apple will wait to make it yet another amazing new thing it can reveal on stage at the WWDC keynote.

Dual-Mode?

Maybe the biggest unknown surrounding the next iPhone is whether or not we’ll see a true dual-mode device, instead of separate iPhone 5 models for both Verizon and AT&T networks, like what’s happened with the iPhone 4. A teardown revealed that the cellular network chip used in the Verizon iPhone is indeed capable of dual-mode communications, so Apple could use it in both versions when the iPhone gets refreshed. But the iPad 2 released last weekend offers two distinct models — one for AT&T and one for Verizon — and isn’t a dual-mode device, indicating Apple might do the same with the iPhone 5. Teardowns of the iPad 2 seem to indicate that very different chips are used for each carrier, so a true dual-mode iPhone may be little more than a pipe dream at this point.

No NFC

A rumor circulating Monday suggests Apple won’t be including NFC technology in the iPhone 5, according to sources at major U.K. mobile operators. I’m inclined to believe this rumor for a couple of reasons. First, the rumor spread very quickly and seems to come from multiple sources, and it strikes me as quite likely that Apple encouraged the leak in order to adjust customer and investor expectations well ahead of the new iPhone’s release. Second, Apple has never been an early adopter of wireless communication technology, and I think NFC falls within that realm. iPhone 6 will get it, once it’s been around for a while and customers have had a chance to grow comfortable with it.

June Launch

Apple historically announces new iPhone models at WWDC, which this year looks like it should fall around June. 5 – 9. The iPhone 4 was announced on June 7 last year, and released to the public on June 24. Expect Apple to at least match that timeframe, if not speed it up. The iPad 2 got a public release only a little over a week after it was announced at a special Apple event, so the company could be shortening the wait period between product announcement and public availability in general.

With the iPad 2 launch behind us, expect the iPhone 5 rumor machine to really kick into high gear in the coming months. What do you expect to see from Apple’s next-gen smartphone?

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