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Rumors are beginning to approach consensus with regards to Apple’s(s aapl) next iPhone, with much of that info coming from sources reportedly within Apple’s supply chain. Here’s a look at what Apple appears to be planning, and when you can expect to see it.
The iPhone 4s
DigiTimes joined the chorus of those claiming the next iPhone will be called the “4S” Wednesday. The “S” moniker was first used by Apple with the iPhone 3GS, which ostensibly stood for “speed.” According to the rumors of what we’ll see in the next iPhone, that S is no less appropriate. The name first was cited as an informal designation used for prototypes passed among Apple’s big-name development partners, but more recent reports from analysts and supply-side sources seem to agree that it will also be the name of the next shipping iPhone.
Internal Updates in Keeping With iPad Refresh
The next iPhone will be an evolutionary update according to most reports, along the lines of the changes made to the iPad 2’s internals. That means the likely addition of Apple’s latest, in-house designed A5 dual-core processor, and likely more RAM, too. The iPad 2 is said to have provided twice the processing power, and nine times the graphics performance of its predecessor by Apple. Expect similar gains in performance for the iPhone 4S.
Another point almost all recent rumors agree on is that the iPhone 4S will have better cameras than its predecessor. The rear camera will be an 8-megapixel model, according to DigiTimes, which would best the current 5-megapixel sensor found in the iPhone 4. Earlier reports suggested both cameras would be improved, and its possible Apple would opt to include an HD video-capable front camera for use with FaceTime HD, which is available on new iMac and MacBook Pro hardware.
Better Cellular Network Chips
While LTE isn’t apparently on the table, reports claim that the next iPhone (s aapl) will support HSPA+ networks, which should provide mobile broadband speed boosts where carriers offer that type of network. DigiTimes reports that Qualcomm(s qcom) will be the sole provider of both GSM and CDMA chips in the next iPhone, though it doesn’t indicate whether those chips will support switching between protocols, as in a true dual-mode world phone. At least one analyst reports suggests that will indeed be the case, however.
According to case designs, the next iPhone could have a larger, edge-to-edge screen that would provide a similar screen ratio to the iPad. The cases come from AliBaba, a B2B trading site servicing the Asian market. The site has proven accurate with case designs for unreleased Apple products in the past, and earlier rumors stemming from what are said to be engineering drawings show the same edge-to-edge screen. A larger screen has long been a subject of debate, including between me and my colleague Kevin Tofel.
Analyst Peter Misek of Jeffries & Co. said that Apple is working with Sprint(s s), T-Mobile and China Mobile to expand the next iPhone’s carrier availability. More recently, a job ad popped up that cited familiarity with Sprint’s CDMA network as a valuable asset for the desired candidate.
Arriving Fall or Later
Those putting off a new smartphone purchase in hopes of waiting for the next iPhone will find it discouraging that most rumors now point to a fall release date. The only report to put a specific date on its release is from UK retailer Phones4U that cites Nov. 21. A Phones4U customer service rep told T3 that the phone was “delayed until November following an issue with the handset’s software.” While it’s unlikely that person had access to accurate information, this report is only one of many that cite a later release date. Almost none have surfaced recently to suggest a June release in keeping with previous hardware iterations.
Even if the next iPhone only boasts the relatively unglamorous updates listed above, and doesn’t arrive until fall, expect it to still succeed among consumers. If released alongside a major software update, as seems likely, it’ll still refine the experience of owning and using a smartphone, and it’ll still more than keep pace with the competition when it comes to how users will actually be using their phones for the next year, even without fancy additions like NFC. New iPhone hardware may not dazzle, but combined with iOS 5, new cloud computing and music offerings, and OS X Lion integration, Apple will still put on quite a show in mobile in 2011.