This is very likely what the next iPhone will look like


I’ve got some bad news for folks who are expecting the next iPhone – widely predicted to be launching next month – to be a total ground-up redesign of the iconic smartphone. It won’t be.

But I’ve also got some good news: It doesn’t need to be.

Take a look at these photos pulled together by Chinese repair shop iLab. They tell a story of an iPhone that is evolutionary, not revolutionary. Surprised? Don’t be. This, for the foreseeable future is going to be Apple’s approach to their existing products.

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Here’s why I think Apple will be “doubling down” – to employ an over-used expression – on their established formulas instead of ushering in completely new devices.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix it

The first iPhone was a surprise. Not just to the industry but to Apple as well. They knew they had created something that was different and unique, but the degree to which consumers started rabidly buying up the iPhone was a shock – even the iPod, Apple’s most successful product in terms of sales, had never enjoyed this degree of enthusiasm.

After that, the course was set. Apple’s belief in the power of an all-touchscreen device and the versatility of downloadable apps had been vindicated by consumer demand. From here on in, the challenge was to find ways to improve on that formula, without disrupting what had become the hallmarks of iPhone’s design language.

Faster chips, better screens, a sleeker case design, better software, improved cameras… each and every part of the iPhone has undergone incremental improvements while maintaining an experience that would be as familiar to an owner of a first generation device as it would to someone whose first iPhone was the 4S.

Especially when you consider that a) the iPhone 4 and 4S have been ridiculously successful despite being identical on the outside, and b) nearly every Android phone on the market is simply a variation on Apple’s design, what would compel Apple to rethink their most profitable product along dramatically different new lines?

Just Enough To Make You Want One

These photos have already garnered criticism amongst Apple die-hards. They feel the design isn’t revolutionary enough, given how similar it looks to the current iPhone. But by now, these people should know that Apple prefers to tweak successful designs instead of reinventing them. Here’s how the next iPhone will offer up improvements over the current model:

Slightly bigger screen. Apple already has one of the best mobile screens on the planet, so the trick will be to give it more real-estate without compromising the measurements of the phone itself which Apple spent a great deal of time and money developing. You’ll notice that the home button now has a little less breathing room above and below it, and the FaceTime camera has been relocated above the ear-piece speaker grille from its current side-car location. These changes, plus a slight lengthening of the phone’s body itself could yield a small but nonetheless noticeable increase in overall screen real estate. The current size is 3.5″ diagonal. A new iPhone could hit 3.9-4.0″ with the re-jigged design.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple manages to bump the specs of the screen too. Better contrast, better brightness, better off-angle viewing? All likely. It doesn’t take a lot to make a screen better when compared to an earlier model. When Apple released the iPad 2, they didn’t even mention that the screen was better than the first iPad – yet to anyone looking at it, it was obvious that they had made some improvements.

4G LTE. 4G, or LTE (Long Term Evolution) is the latest standard in high-speed data connectivity for mobile phones. Where supported by carriers, it enabled speeds of up to 150Mbps which is significant leap over the previous 3G standard. As such, this one is the most obvious feature for the next iPhone. The new iPad already has it, and given the increasingly wide-spread availability of the new high-speed wireless standard, it’s time for the iPhone to get the new technology too.

Bigger, longer-lasting battery. Increasing the size of the case doesn’t just allow for a bigger screen, it means a bigger space for the battery too. And if the next iPhone is going to have LTE, it will need a bigger battery. LTE is fairly power-hungry technology and presumably Apple doesn’t want battery life to suffer. So while the next iPhone may last longer between charges if you restrict it to 3G, running LTE will probably result in the same life you’re used to now.

NFC. NFC or Near Field Communication is a relatively new technology which lets devices communicate with one another over very short distances, without using WiFi or Bluetooth. In mobile phones, NFC can be used to let people “tap to share” (e.g. photos or web links) or “tap to connect” (instead of needing to configure a Bluetooth speaker – just tap it), but the biggest feature of NFC is its ability to enable mobile wallet applications. This is how you can pay for purchases using nothing but your smartphone at retailers that can accept NFC payments. NFC on the next iPhone might be a long-shot, especially given that the technology has so far been very slow to be adopted at retail in North America. However, it is progressing and there’s no question that if Apple wants to play in the digital wallet space as they undoubtedly do, NFC is pretty much mandatory.

Smaller, possibly mag-safe-based dock connector. There have been far too may rumours pointing to this: The new iPhone will absolutely have a new, smaller dock connector. Yes, that will mean that all existing docks and accessories will now require adapters in order to work with the next iPhone, but the 30-pin dock connector is now 10 years old and wireless technologies like Bluetooth and AirPlay have made it largely unnecessary for anything other than charging. A smaller connector also means they can now move the audio-jack to the bottom of the phone.

Audio jack on the bottom. Why does this even matter? Well, for folks who never use the jack, it doesn’t matter at all. But those who do will have noticed that it is kind of inconvenient to stick your iPhone in your pocket with the bottom of the phone facing down. Not only do you have to flip the phone around when you pull it out, but it’s much harder to reach for the home button quickly. And given the importance Apple has placed on Siri, being able to grab that home button when you’re on the go is definitely a benefit.

A little thinner. The newest Android phones from HTC and Samsung have put an emphasis on ever thinner dimensions. The next iPhone will lose a few millimetres too. Take a close look at the photos above. They clearly show that the metal sides (which double as the phone’s antennas) will be bevelled and the front and back surfaces will sit flush to the edge. The current design is 9.3mm thick, with at least a millimetre or two of front and back surface extending beyond the metal rim. The new iPhone could easily come in at 7mm or less. Given that the world record holder, the Oppo Finder comes in at an anorexic 6.65mm, 7mm seems realistic for a new iPhone.

Another spec bump on the processor, possibly to quad-core, and more memory. This will be mostly to keep pace with the rest of the industry and because faster chips means more powerful applications – the life-blood of the iPhone post-sale revenue.

Reservations

Am I convinced that these photos are 100% what the new iPhone will look like? No. There are a few details that don’t seem right:

– The power/wake button at the top looks like it has almost no height to it at all, which would make it difficult to press.

– In picture 6, it looks as though the front face of the phone starts flush with the metal sides at the top of the phone but then progressively ramps away from the sides as it meets the bottom edge. That definitely seems out of place. It may be that the folks who assembled this mockup didn’t fit the pieces together quite right.

– There are visible seams where the top and bottom pieces of the phone meet the back plate. Given that Apple went to great lengths to make the current design nearly seamless, I can’t imagine they would now be ok with seams. But this could easily be a pre-production mockup, with the final product getting a much smoother finish.

– There is a strange, small hole sitting between the LED light and the rear camera lens. It could be a mic, and I’d place bets that’s what it is, but why is it there? The current design doesn’t employ such a visible mic so it’s hard to imagine why the new design calls for it to be so prominent.

These reservations aside, I think we are looking at the next iPhone. It’s a design that is in keeping with Apple doing what they do best: Give owners of an iPhone 4 or older model a strong reason to upgrade once they’re free of their contract, while not making people who just bought an iPhone 4S feel like they’re the proud owners of obsolete technology. This iterative, evolutionary approach to their product development can be seen across Apple’s line of devices and the next iPhone will follow this model.

Now, in case you’re sitting there feeling glum that Apple won’t be surprising and delighting you with a new, magical and revolutionary product come the fall, don’t fret just yet.

There’s still plenty of reason to think that Apple will finally make good on its much-rumoured move into the HDTV space, plus we keep getting hints of a new, smaller iPad model. This may yet shape up to be one of Apple’s most interesting years.

[Source: iLab via 9to5Mac and BGR]

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31 comments

  1. Sam Patwegar

    What about Liquidmetal design that Apple was rumoured to be coming out with, that is something which can potentially keep Apple in the lead for few more years.

    Like

    • don

      I am surprised at how good Iphone has gotten in the old sale tactic of the bate and switch!
      What is wrong with selling hardware upgrades instead of praying on young people to buy your “new and exciting” version of your phone. i mean really people! at this rate you will be at I 10 in the next 6 months!!!

      Like

  2. Hidden Virtue

    I think that just the fact that Apple is going to launch a new iPhone has most people rumouring and clamouring to see what it’ll be like :) . As to whether people will buy it or not, I think it’s hard to tell right now. Either way, thanks for the heads up, Simon! :D

    Like

  3. Claude Desaulniers

    You are right about “it doesnt need to be different from Iphone 4”. I am not a so called fanboy of Apple, I own a regular PC. I also like other phones like the Galaxy 3, but you have to admit that the Iphone 4/4s is a real nice peice of hardware. No floppy buttons, no cheap plastic, gorgeous metal trim, a good perfectly crafted well built device that I think still looks great despite being a few years old. If the Iphone 5 has a 4″ screen and looks as good as the Iphone 4 well I think thats a good thing.

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    • Seethru the bull sh*t

      For someone who claims not to be an “apple fanboy” you sure don’t know much about other devices. Apparently andriod devices have “floppy buttons and cheap plastic” and the Iphone is a perfectly crafted well built device. Have you ever looked at drop tests between the “well built Iphone” and the “cheap Samsung galaxy”? The iphone shatters everytime where as the Samsung barely gets a scratch, now tell me what is cheap and what is well built. The iphone is designed to break because Apple knows idiots will just keep buying it, even if it is the inferior device in a lot of ways. Iphone is mostly hype, but when compared with the other top of the line devices out there Iphone loses. The only place they never lose is that their phone is the most expensive because of there expensive materials that Shatter if you look at them the wrong way.

      Apple has you all in a trance of spending your money on their hyped up products, are they good sure they are, are they the best absolutely not. Spend on Apple fans, Spend on!!

      Like

  4. Luthor

    The same old S%$& about leaked photos.
    Why don’t we get leaked photos from the next Airbus plane or the Next NASA space vehicule project, or the next DEA or CIA target?
    This is Marketing my friend..SO, delete that catchy phrase of LEAKED PHOTOS.
    They are in the internet on purpose. The manufacturers post them for luring buyers..
    IF you think that your article is prime news..NO IS NOT. They lured you too…Dumb ass

    Like

    • Simon Cohen

      Leaked or not, intentionally distributed by Apple or not, the point isn’t how or why they are out there. The point is to discuss what we’re looking at: a new product. Sorry you were disappointed!

      Like

  5. Clear Thinking

    What is it with these tech writers who assume everyone reading their articles are tech gurus. What does NFC stand for? NO F****** CRAP?? How about 4G LTE? If it’s new technology then explain it! Simon, do you know how to bake a BFC? (that stands for Black Forest Cake)

    Like

    • Simon Cohen

      LOL, ok fair enough – will update the definitions. You’re right, we do tend to forget that not everyone is as obsessed with tech as we are!

      Like

      • Clear Thinking

        Yes, I just made that one up. It reminded me of a baker friend of mine who was on the phone with a tech customer service rep who was using tech lingo – the conversation become so frustrating that my friend said “do you know how to bake a cake” and hung up in despair.

        I’m impressed that you actually tried to look that one up.

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      • Andrew the Chef

        Try looking for ‘Black Forest Gateau’ or even ‘Gateau Foret Noir’ if you can speak French (the language of cuisine). The resulting ‘cake’ is delicious!

        Like

    • H

      Okay! First, @clearThinking! That is pretty funny, BFC (Black Forest Cake) But seriously, what is 4G LTE? DUDE! HE HAS A WHOLE FREAKING DEFINITION RIGHT THERE! Look ” 4G, or LTE (Long Term Evolution) is the latest standard in high-speed data connectivity for mobile phones. Where supported by carriers, it enabled speeds of up to 150Mbps which is significant leap over the previous 3G standard. As such, this one is the most obvious feature for the next iPhone. The new iPad already has it, and given the increasingly wide-spread availability of the new high-speed wireless standard, it’s time for the iPhone to get the new technology too.”

      If you don’t understand that, sorry man – issues -……

      Second, Simon, I really agree with Clear Thinking on this one, what the heck is BFC!? I mean, I click on the link you posted and there are about 500 terms BFC! One of which, is Black Forest Cake.. Please explain this like you explained 4G LTE and nobody should have any issues..

      Anyways, Great Post!

      Like

  6. ID

    Evolutionary… I don’t see it. I love gadgets! And though I have used iOS6 and have seen/read many write-ups on the suspected new iPhone, I really am not happy with where Apple may be going with their company. Looking at the latest leaked shots it seems to be just a different look to the product with no “real” thought put into it. I dont know if Apple is sticking with there plans or their mices running around with the Big Cat gone. It’s sad. Upon hearing the announcement of HDMI on a Macbook, that to me just doesn’t make sense. I definitely use my MacBook Air to watch videos (via DisplayPort to HDMI adapter), but by placing a built in HDMI onto the product just doesnt make sense for everyday use.

    Now the speculation of the “New iPhone” having a larger screen, taller unit, slimmer, and others written above doesnt seem at all like what Steve Jobs would have done. iOS6 is not anything new… Minor changes that I saw in everyday use like Reminders with geo-fencing is good, Do Not Disturb is great, not having to type in your password just to update an App is convinient… But really, thats pretty much all that I see that made me like it. I then picked up the latest Galaxy S3 my friends just purchased and I thought… Here’s the new iPhone… Slim, Larger Screen… With the all the speculated bells & whistles.

    I am waiting to see what they come out with… Preferably I would like to see the front-facing camera embedded in the center of the screen (NOTE: which is by the way why the audio plug is at the bottom, so the cord doesnt go across the camera while on Skype or FaceTime… Just saying). I know The PassBook will be the safest way to conduct money transactions since it is much more difficult to steal or replicate a QR image, then verify actual owner by location/device.

    I know it must be difficult for Apple to live up to having the ‘Next Big Thing’ every product launch. But then again, when Jobs was here… They always did. Hmmm :-)

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  7. kennybigrig

    Don’t really give a rats ass. I had an iphone and I gave it to my kid for a pay as you go phone, would never have another apple or mac product again. Every design they come up with is just another ways to monopolize your wallet. One bad apple can ruin the whole bunch.

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    • brad zuck

      can you please qualify what you have said in regards to every design they come up with is just another way to monopolize your wallet. please explain how what Apple does differs from what Samsung HTC LG or any other smart phone mfgr does to try and convince you to use their product.
      Apple single handedly revolutionized the cell phone market and continue to influence every mfgr on the planet.

      Like

      • dah

        really, then you might want to tell that to the real inventor, BLACKBERRY. the true business cell phone in the market today bar non.

        Like

  8. Denyse

    The design they have now is great, a metal back instead of glass would be even better. i think most have the Iphone because they have an addiction to downloading all the neat apps out there!I know I do :) Hey if we have to carry around a cell 24/7 then it may as well be something your happy with!! Andd most people Love their Iphones…..

    Like

  9. BabeKins

    I have used both the iphone (3g,3gs,4&4s) and the new galaxy s3. I must say the Galaxy blows the iphone out of the water in my eyes. It does everything the iphone can and more. PLUS my wallet isnt raped every time I want music or an app. I find the Galaxy far more less complicated while being able to do more all at the same time. The iPhone was very frustrating as a tech nerd who wants a device to do what I want it to when I want it to! The Galaxy hands down is by far blowing apple apart. Those who are staying with apple are only doing so because they are either comfortable and afraid of the change, They want a simple and OS controlled device (compared to user controlled like an android is) OR The simply like the “label” of having and apple product or iphone.

    Like

    • Jon

      Totally agree with you. Many people will not be able to take advantage fo the newer speeds as they are not widely available throughout the world as yet.
      The increasing ridiculous lawsuits filed worldwide say more about Apple’s concern for the Android driven phones overtaking their product than real issues. Apple seem determined to try anything possible to stifle the advancement of cell phones by others. Since the demise of Steve Jobs its been all about the money and little else with Apple.
      All ideas in technology overlap and even if the iphone was $50.00 i would still buy an Android or Windows based phone just for the freedom it gives the user.
      Personally i think that court time could be better used by murder and rape cases.

      Like

  10. no body

    *yawn*

    Wake me when the next batch of Android phones are out…Galaxy S III is out NOW and still probably and lot better…

    Like

  11. Zack

    My thoughts are: The power button is for sleeker design. In photo 6, the light reflection produces the look to it “ramping away”. The small hole between the rear camera and the led, I believe this is a light sensor for better quality pictures.

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  12. Tim

    Come on people, get real. All the iphones look the same from 3 feet away. 90% of all phones look the same now. At least when somebody pulls out a BlackBerry you know what it is. Apple is very good at telling you what you think you need, they have nothing revolutionary in apps and software and are quickly falling behind Android, thus all the law suits. As for RIM, BB10
    better be as good as they think it is. I know an app developer and he says after he attended the BB10 app tour, he says it is a developers dream. Only time will.

    Like

    • ID

      It’s funny you mentioned BB10… I agree with your friend. I attended a Hack-A-Thon through AT&T and BB was one of the presenters. I was blown away by their statistics and BB10. That… Is ‘Evolutionary’!!! I believe the mobile game is in for a big change in these coming years. Marketshare will change! To whom it will go? I would say Nokia is going to go on top once again. OS? Android will continue to stay on top as the Platform of Choice for the rest of the mobile manufacturers. Windows and BB are in their make/break it stage, and upon release, you’ll see some major advancements that will shake up the Mobile OS world.

      One thing I can say is that BB will make it back up again. Maybe not to the level of their previous success, but be a contender once again.

      Like

  13. PD

    Who gives a flying S**T about it all! Get a life. Life is more than just a bloddy smart phone. You people are all NUTS….double NUTS!

    Like

    • Simon Cohen

      LOL. You clicked on a link to read a story about new iPhone photos, so very clearly, you give a flying S**T about it. :-) Just sayin’…

      Like

  14. Seethru the bull sh*t

    Whatever! Iphone sucks get over it and move on people. Yes at ONE TIME they were evolutionary and changed the smart phone game, but not anymore. The fact of the matter is they are still riding on the reputation they built years ago. If you actually set your loyalty aside and compare devices Iphone is no longer the best and probably never will be again. They only reason anyone still thinks it’s the best is because it’s the most expensive, which is just marketing Bull Sh*t. It’s like buying Levi’s jeans or gucci jeans, do you think Gucci uses hundreds of dollars of more expensive material or do they use denim just like Levi? In fact levi’s is probably a better made jean but they don’t cost as much because they don’t say Gucci. It’s the same thing here everyone wants an Iphone because it says Iphone on it and it is the most expensive. Grow up and stop spending your hard earned money on marketing hype, if everyone was smart and only bought the best devices then there would be true competition out there for smart phones to build the best device.

    Like

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