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Rumor Mill Buzzes With Shape - and Size - of iPhones to Come

By Rachelle Dragani MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jan 26, 2012 9:18 AM PT

The iPhone 5 is headed toward production for a summer debut, according to a report in 9 to 5 Mac.

Rumor Mill Buzzes With Shape - and Size - of iPhones to Come

The information comes from an anonymous source: the same Foxconn employee who last fall accurately disclosed that Apple was planning a revamped iPhone 4, the 4S, rather than the iPhone 5, according to the publication.

This time around, the employee said that a few versions of the new handset have been considered, so it's difficult to know exactly what the design will look like.

Many of the design updates the smartphones had in common were similar to the rumors that preceded the iPhone 4S. For instance, the new phone will have a four-inch display, an increase from the three-and-a-half-inch screen that iPhones currently have, according to the report.

The phone is also not expected to be a teardrop shape and will be longer and wider than the present model.

If Apple continues to follow its production and shipping patterns, the company needs about a five-month lead time to complete manufacturing and get the phones to stores. Assuming the sourc is accurate and the finished product is gearing toward production, that would give the iPhone 5 a summer launch. Until the iPhone 4S made its debut last October, summer had been the preferred iPhone release season for Apple since 2007.

Apple didn't respond to our requests for comment.

Not in a Hurry

Apple released record quarterly earnings this week, driven largely by sky-high sales of the iPhone 4S, so the company perhaps doesn't feel a need to rush out the iPhone 5 before it's ready. However, it likely doesn't want to keep customers waiting too long either.

"Summer makes sense. The 4S was late in most people's minds, compared to their previous releases. But at this point, they can't not do a larger screen or some kind of 4G LTE technology, so it's probably going to be summer unless some kind of hiccup comes up," John Feland, CEO and founder of Argus Insights, told MacNewsWorld.

A larger screen would be the line's first screen size change since the iPhone first came out in 2007. Many competing phones, particularly Android phones by Samsung and Motorola, feature larger screens.

"Nearly five years later, consumer taste has evolved closer to four inches, and in some cases five inches or more. I think it's great that the iPhone as it is can fit in your pocket, but so can most four-inch smartphones too, and it's still comfortable in the hand to type in," Ramon T. Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC Mobile Devices Technology and Trends, told MacNewsWorld.

As customers start using their smartphones for more communication and multitasking purposes, the demand for a larger screens increases, especially when larger -- and often more affordable -- phones from competitors are on the market.

"We are seeing screen size be a detractor for iPhone 4S users. Of the top 10 most discussed features, it's number 10 with a net negative sentiment. On the Galaxy Nexus by Samsung and the Droid Razr by Motorola, [the discussions] are overwhelmingly positive. In fact, a majority of the user commentary for these two new phones is about the screen size," said Feland.

Keeping Customers Happy

"At the end of the day, Apple needs something with a screen size between the iPad and the current generation of iPhones, given their continued push as a content provider," Feland continued. "We're far enough on the cost curve that these issues are no longer barriers for Apple to go big this next round of the iPhone. As evidenced by the Android users that love their bigger screens, this shift will delight an already deliriously happy customer set."

Before the iPhone 4S came out, customers expected a larger screen. The immediate response to that product appeared lukewarm. Though Apple's earnings report is clear evidence that the device bounced back from that early reaction, customers have come to expect Apple to be on top of its game when it releases a new product.

"Recall the mild disappointment when the iPhone 4S was announced and there was no larger -- or smaller -- screen. With this upcoming iPhone, be it summertime or sometime else, users will most likely come back anticipating a bigger screen and 4G LTE, as these features have become expectations, and not nice-to-haves, on smartphones," said Llamas.

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