Apple reveals its latest iPhone -- possibly two of them -- on Sept. 10. We separate the bogus iPhone rumors from the smart predictions.
On Sept. 10, Apple is expected to unveil a new iPhone -- or perhaps two. If you follow iPhone gossip, you're already aware that Apple might do things a little differently this year. Rather than launching a single new phone, CEO Tim Cook and staff are expected to reveal two models: the premium iPhone 5C, the next step up from the iPhone 5, and the iPhone 5C, a less pricey version targeted at cash-strapped consumers in the emerging and developed worlds.
As is always the case before an Apple product release, iPhone rumors have been swirling for months. Why pay attention to them? Because they're usually accurate, albeit with a few clunkers that seasoned Apple watchers can generally spot. If The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is testing iPhones with six-inch screens, that's probably a reliable bit of gossip. But if Joe's Tech Blog insists the iPhone 5C will feature a fold-out massage table, well, you be the judge. (To be fair, sometimes little-known bloggers break stories first, so you never know.)
This year's iPhone launch is particularly interesting in light of recent global smartphone developments, including Android's growing dominance in developing regions, markets that Apple hopes to crack with its rumored iPhone 5C. At the premium end of the market, the iPhone is facing a growing number of quality competitors, including the aluminum-framed HTC One, the Nokia Lumia 1020 with its 41-megapixel camera, and the feature-packed Samsung Galaxy S4, the iPhone's arch-nemesis.
Many questions will be answered Tuesday, while others won't be resolved for months. Will the iPhone 5C be priced low enough for Apple to boost its global market share? If it's priced too low, will the 5C provide a substandard experience that damages Apple's premium brand? And if the iPhone 5S retains a four-inch screen as expected, will it appear behind the times as five-inch and larger phones grab a bigger slice of the market?
Last year's rumors leading up to the September 2012 debut of the iPhone 5 launch painted a fairly accurate picture of that device's dimensions, appearance and capabilities. This time around, there's little reason to suspect the leaked iPhone specs and furtive photos we've been seeing for months are bogus. Again, we'll know for sure on Tuesday.
In this slideshow we review the best and worst iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S rumors. Which ones will turn out to be true? Dig in to read our predictions of what's real and what's ridiculous.
Computing devices with fingerprint scanners aren't new. IBM introduced a laptop with an integrated fingerprint reader way back in 2004. And the Motorola Atrix 4G smartphone had one in 2011. Well, the iPhone 5S is expected to integrate a fingerprint sensor with the home button, but why? Users aren't exactly clamoring for the feature, which could be used in lieu of a passcode to unlock the phone, access digital wallet capabilities (for online shopping, for example), or perform other tasks that only Apple knows about for now. Fingerprint scanning is an intriguing idea, but will it be faster and easier than passwords for the average iPhone user?
The sketchiest iPhone rumors tend to fade away as an Apple launch date approaches, and this year is no exception. In July, a widely circulated online rumor predicted that Apple would delay the release of iPhone 5S in order to upgrade the device's screen size to 4.3 inches from four inches. The Commercial Times, a Taiwanese newspaper, reported the story, which was later picked up by Bloomberg. Well, the rumor didn't have legs, and most Apple watchers still expect the iPhone 5S to have a four-inch screen just like its predecessor.
The iPhone 6 might be different story, however. The Wall Street Journalreported this week that Apple is testing iPhone screens as large as six inches. If true, an iPhone phablet might not be far off.
The iPhone is immensely profitable for Apple, but its share of the worldwide smartphone operating system market is heading south. In the second quarter of 2013, Apple's slice of the global smartphone OS pie shrank by just over 3% year-over-year, according to research firm IDC. And in key developing markets such as China, Android mobile devices dominate.
The solution? A cheaper version of the iPhone -- everyone's calling it the iPhone 5C, and you can decide what the "C" stands for -- is expected to debut Sept. 10. Leaked photos show a polycarbonate iPhone 5C shell that comes in multiple colors. The phone will cost less than the premium iPhone 5S model and appears to be targeted mostly at developing markets where Apple handsets have been too pricey to gain a foothold. Presumably cheaper to manufacture, the iPhone 5C is expected to replace the iPhone 4/4S at the low end of the Apple phone family. One key question remains: How low will Apple price the iPhone 5C?
Earlier this year, Digitimes reported that Apple would add wireless charging to the iPhone by the end of 2013. Citing anonymous sources, the often wrong but always prolific source of Apple rumors said the next-gen iPhone would likely use wireless charging technology developed internally by Apple.
Tech bloggers immediately shot down the report. 9to5Mac, for instance, called the news "unlikely," saying it would require significant design changes to the iPhone's trademark aluminum shell. And as InformationWeek's Eric Zeman pointed out recently, Apple is unlikely to add the feature to the iPhone until one of three competing wireless charging technologies, each backed by a different consortium -- the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), Power Matters Alliance (PMA) and Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) -- is declared the industry standard.
There's plenty of visual evidence showing that Apple will break from its traditional black/white combo and get a little crazy with its newest iPhones. The low-end iPhone 5C will be particularly spectrum-friendly, with a rainbow of soft shades seemingly targeted at people who love marshmallow Peeps. The premium iPhone 5S is more button-down, adding only a new "champagne" gold shell and perhaps a grey (or graphite) version.
We've been hearing for some time that near-field communication (NFC) technology is destined to be the next big thing in mobile payments. And it has other uses, too: Samsung's S Beam data-transfer technology, for instance, is based on NFC. But while a fair number of Android phones are NFC enabled, the iPhone isn't -- a factor that's certainly been a major obstacle to NFC's reception in the marketplace.
Will the new iPhone have NFC? It might, Yankee Group analyst Jordan McKee told Computerworld last month. Then again, Apple could wait until next year to integrate NFC with the iPhone's Passbook mobile payment app and its new fingerprint reader. Alternatively, Apple could bypass NFC altogether and go with Bluetooth Smart, some say. Bottom line: NFC won't come to the iPhone in 2013.
The iPhone 5S camera will get a small spec bump. Apple-watcher Rene Ritchie of iMore expects the 5S's iSight (rear-facing) camera to add a larger f2.0 aperture, which would allow more light to enter than the f/2.4 aperture on the iPhone 5. The result: Better image quality in low-light conditions. Apple wouldn't be a trailblazer here, however, as the HTC One already has an f2.0 aperture. The iSight shooter will likely remain at 8 megapixels, with Apple saving the big camera upgrade for next year's iPhone 6. As for the bargain iPhone 5C? Hopefully, it will retain the iPhone 5's very good camera rather than downgrading to an inferior shooter. A lot might depend on how aggressively Apple prices the iPhone 5C, however.
Nearly all tech prognosticators expect Apple to launch the high-end iPhone 5S and low-end iPhone 5C on Sept. 10. But there's always a rebel out there. Case in point: Phil Moore of Stabley Times. He says there's a 70% chance that Apple will launch the iPhone 6 instead.
Why? In his words: "Because the iOS 7 makeover Apple has already shown off is too aggressive and too radical to be wasted on an iPhone 5S, which looks just like the current iPhone 5." Also: "Leaked images show a new budget iPhone 5 model, which suggests Apple won't keep that same design for its new flagship phone."
An interesting hypothesis, perhaps, but the leaked images we've seen suggest otherwise. The iPhone 5S is indeed the new high-end model, and it will retain the basic shape and size of the iPhone 5. The iPhone 6? Next year.
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