iPhone 5: What to Expect

Apple is no stranger to excitement, rumors, and hype. In the next two pages, I summarize the latest iPhone 5 rumors (as of early May, 2011), and classify them into three categories: Most Probable, Less Probable, and No Chance. I've also included a percentage estimate of the probability that each rumor is true based on the source of the rumor and a little common sense.

Apple's World Wide Developer Conference begins on June 6th (after we go to print), and it's possible that specifics on the iPhone 5 will be announced during the conference. The release date of the iPhone 5 is still a major secret, but most analysts predict a fall or winter launch.

Most probable

White version available on day one

White iPhoneThe elusive white iPhone 4 started to take on mythical status after its repeated delays convinced many that it would never hit the market. When Steve Jobs unveiled the white and black versions of the iPad 2, he promptly proclaimed that both color choices would be available from day one. I assume Apple has learned from their mistakes, and a white version of the iPhone 5 will be available from day one as well. Probability: 100%

Ships with iOS 5

Apple's mobile operating system, called iOS, gets an improvement every year. Apple will release the iPhone 5 with iOS 5 already running in it; there is no reason why they wouldn't. Probability: 100%

AT&T and Verizon versions available on day one

When Verizon released its version of the iPhone 4 back in February, groups like iFixit.com promptly went to work tearing it down and analyzing the inner components. They found that in addition to being able to access Verizon's CDMA-based network, the iPhone 4 had a chip capable of accessing GSM-based networks as well. This suggests that Apple is manufacturing the iPhone 5 with the necessary chips to access either network. Probability: 95%

Will include a better camera


The online rumor mill had a field-day after Sony's CEO, Sir Howard Stringer, accidentally let out that the tragedy in Japan damaged one of Sony's best camera sensor factories and this would delay shipment to Apple for the iPhone. This suggested that the iPhone 5 may sport an 8-megapixel camera, a nice upgrade from the already-powerful 5-megapixel camera on the iPhone 4. Probability: 95%

Ships with a faster processor

The iPad 2 came out with a 1GHz A5 dual-core processor, and every version of the iPhone has had improved capabilities. If you combine that with the fact that LG, Motorola, and other carriers have already released dual-core processors for their Android phones, it's probably a safe bet that the new iPhone 5 will have that same A5 processor. Probability: 95%

Better battery life


The iPhone 4 improved battery life by about 40% over the iPhone 3GS. It is almost a given that the new version will also have improved battery life. The main question is, "By how much?" That really depends on the other features on the iPhone. For example, if Apple decides to roll out LTE 4G capability (which is unlikely since their trend is to wait until the technology has matured for a while), then the battery would have to undergo a vast improvement just to handle the large amount of data transfer over the course of a typical day. The battery will have a longer lasting life, but features on the iPhone 5 will determine how much better. Probability: 95%

The iPhone 5 will surely have improved battery life, but the improvement depends on the richness of all other features.

Better cloud-computing support

Since earlier this year, the blogosphere has been fueling rumors about Apple's plans to have an increased presence in the cloud. It started when Apple hired Kevin Timmons, who was the General Manager of Microsoft's data center operations, which power the company's cloud-based services. The iPhone 5, along with improvements in iOS 5, will potentially cover new ground in the cloud space. Services like Google Docs have been slowly and surely increasing in popularity, and Amazon's new cloud-based music service is looking to rival iTunes in the music arena. Apple's own paid cloud service, MobileMe, will be integral in any cloud support improvement for the iPhone 5. Probability: 90%

New antenna design

Most iPhone 4 users (AT&T and Verizon) are aware of the antenna problems associated with that device. The iPhone 5 will most probably have a redesigned antenna that will potentially sit behind the Apple logo on the back panel instead of the sides of the unit. Probability: 85%

Thinner Model

Thinner iPhone

As is tradition with Apple, a new version usually means a thinner model. The exception was the iPhone 3GS, which was thicker than the iPhone 3G. The iPad 2 is thinner than the iPhone 4, and I'm willing to bet that the iPhone 5 will be thinner that the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2. Probability: 80%

This fake image of a thin iPhone has been circulating freely online.

Enhanced voice control

Over a year ago Apple bought Siri, a virtual personal assistant startup with a very cool iPhone app. According to TechCrunch, Siri's neat artificial intelligence and assistant technology will be an integral part of iOS 5. This means the iPhone 5 could have vastly improved voice control features. Maybe we'll be able to compose text or e-mails with our voice? Probability: 65%

Less probable

Bigger screen

Rumors circulating around a bigger screen for the iPhone 5 made sense considering the larger screen in new Android models. However, we don't yet see how Apple can accomplish this without sacrificing battery life or overall size. If Apple can figure out the perfect balance, then all bets are off. Probability: 50%

Near Field Communication (NFC)

iPhone Near Field Communication (NFC)?

One exciting rumor was the possibility of NFC technology on the iPhone 5. NFC allows for contactless communication between phones and special readers. One application, for example, would be the ability to pay for groceries at a checkout counter straight from your iPhone, eliminating the need to carry around credit cards. While this would be an exciting addition to the iPhone and certainly a benefit over having an Android phone, I don't think Apple would risk rolling out such an extensive feature without the infrastructure to support it (i.e. without retailers equipped to support payment through NFC readers). Probability: 25%

NFC capability would let you make "Touch and Go" payments at retail locations through your iPhone. Photo credit: tipb.com.


Apple generally doesn't like to jump onto the latest technology available. The first iPhone ran on the painfully slow EDGE (2G) network, even though 3G was already widely available. Most analysts predict Apple will wait to roll out 4G LTE on the iPhone 6 in 2012. Probability: 20%

Improved Home screen

Improved Homescreen?

Some users are hoping iOS 5 may bring a new design to the Home screen. They wish the iPhone had a more useful and functional dashboard (see right). However, analysts don't think it's likely with iOS 5. Probability: 15%

Some users wish for a more functional home screen with a real "Dashboard." Photo credit: teehanlax.com

FaceTime over cellular network

Currently, FaceTime only works over Wi-Fi connection, and although there are ways to make it work over 3G, Apple isn't officially supporting it. There is a small possibility that this will be a new feature in the iPhone 5. Probability: 10%

More Carriers

Now that the iPhone is capable of working on CDMA and GSM-based networks, technically there's nothing stopping Apple from creating a Sprint and T-Mobile version. However, since Verizon and AT&T already control a huge chunk of the cell phone market, and T-Mobile could soon be part of Verizon anyways, I don't think we'll see more carriers with the iPhone 5. Probability: 5%

No chance

Micro-HDMI Port

Many Android smartphones come with a built-in Micro-HDMI port that lets you run video to your TV. In March Apple announced video output support for the iPhone 4, iPod Touch 4G, and iPad 2, but you need to purchase Apple's $39 Digital AV to send that HD video (and audio) to a TV or monitor. The iPhone 5 could potentially have a built-in Micro-HDMI port, but I doubt it. Probability: 0%

Removable Battery

A removable battery isn't in line with Apple's current design principles, so this is a highly unlikely design change. Probability: 0%

Expandable Memory

This feature is also an unlikely design change. It would be nice, however. Probability: 0%

Flash support

Flash support on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch has been a constant dream for many iOS-enthusiasts. Steve Jobs has publicly explained why he doesn't plan on supporting Flash (apple.com/hotnews/thoughts-on-flash), but with a new version of the iPhone around the corner, rumors and hopes tend to re-surface. One of the rumors spoke of iOS 5 using a different method for being able to play Flash. We'll have to wait and see, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Probability: 0%

A roundup of the rumors and predictions
July-August 2011
iOS Devices
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