In one last hurrah before the October 4th announcement, the iPhone 5 rumor mill makes up its mind: it will be an iPhone 4S tomorrow.
If there is ever a day when the iPhone 5 rumor mill renders itself completely worthless, it’s today. With just 24+ hours until Apple unveils its long-waited new iPhone iteration, no leaked photo, screen shot, or iPhone 5 case can mollify the avid iPhone junkie searching for answers to their insatiable questions: after this long a wait, everyone can wait just one day longer.
In spite of this reality, however, the media are still hard at it, compressing a year’s worth of rumors and doubling down on their last-minute predictions. Taking a quick look around the tech media sphere — as well as some of the mainstream media — it would appear that much of the media expects not an iPhone 5, but rather a refreshed iPhone 4S.
9to5Mac seems to have made its mind up on the issue, observing that the rumors weigh more heavily in favor of the iPhone 4S than the iPhone 5. They note that, while the only “solid” evidence of the overhauled, teardrop design are a flurry of cheap iPhone 5 cases, the rest of the circumstantial evidence points to the iPhone 4S. They comment that, “Because of lack of evidence for a redesign, we believe that Apple will introduce only an iPhone 4S on Tuesday,” and then goes on to list seven compelling pieces of evidence to support the claim. Granted, none of them are what you would call “smoking guns,” and some of them don’t even make any sense, such as “N94 device with iPhone 4 design tested on T-Mobile” — didn’t T-Mobile already tell us that they aren’t releasing an iPhone this year?
In any case, it’s interesting to see that 9to5Mac has settled on this prediction just a day ahead of the announcement.
But some of the big media outlets have also referenced the iPhone 4S speculation as well. FoxNews had this to say today: “Rumor has it that the phone will be called the iPhone 4S, not iPhone 5. We have seen Apple do this before when its flagship phone has not been fully refreshed but rather updated incrementally. The 3G and 3GS are good examples.” That’s it. That’s all they had to say about the issue — they’ve all but settled on the iPhone 4S speculation as well.
CNN.com is a bit more scatter-brained with their own report, citing virtually everything that has been written about the next iPhone. However, they do lead off their long, confusing list of possibilities by saying, “The tech specs of the new phone are still hotly debated, as reporters scour Apple patents, SKU codes and, of course, Bay Area bars for any remaining iPhone-rumor morsels sure to grab the public’s attention,” then going on to acknowledge, “The phone will be called the iPhone 5 or iPhone 4S.” CNN kind of gives up their hack status when it comes to the iPhone, since we all know that Apple could very well choose a name not on this short-list.
MacRumors is more diffuse in making a prediction, instead opting to simply list the possibilities of what we might get tomorrow. But one interesting quote from this article concerns the naming of the next device: “Several retailers and carriers are beginning to list “iPhone 5″ on their websites, which some readers take as evidence for a redesigned iPhone. Those companies’ use of the term “iPhone 5″ is not referring to any particular design (tapered or otherwise) but are simply placeholders. They are simply using the term “iPhone 5″ as a naturally descriptive term to mean “the iPhone that comes after the iPhone 4.”
MacRumors seems to be getting at the point that the significance of the name of the next iPhone is incredibly convoluded — Apple has every right to call it “iPhone 5,” whether it turns out to be an overhaul or not. After all, it will be the fifth-generation iPhone. And if they choose to call it “4S” or “4GS,” they will be putting themselves in the position of having to skip over the “iPhone 5″ and go right to “iPhone 6″ in 2012, like they did with the iPhone and then the subsequent iPhone 3G.
One final speculation — one that interests me the most, comes from BGR of all sites, who delves into the last-minute sense that the next iPhone could be truly 4G-ready. Citing some screen shots (again — they could be easily fabricated), BGR claims that the next iPhone will either be 4G LTE, or at the very least, boast 4G-like speeds: “One listing mentioned the oft-rumored iPhone 4S and the second listed a $639.99 iPhone 5 with an 8-megapixel camera, a 4-inch display and “4G Data Speeds.” BGR also represents the last bastion of the dual iPhone releases — though I’ve seen very little of that being claimed today.
Like you, I’ve taken in all of the so-called evidence over the past summer, and I’ve found most of it to be inconclusive at best. I would agree with 9to5Mac’s assertion that the lion’s share of actionable intelligence suggests this refreshed “iPhone 4S” over an overhauled iPhone 5. That being said, this perception may also simply be the result of Apple doing its best to keep the iPhone 5 under wraps. Maybe that’s exactly what they want us to believe?
Of all the screen shots, iPhone cases, and other sightings, I think the best evidence we’ve seen so far comes directly from Apple: their media event graphic. Most companies don’t think about the symbolism of choosing press conference dates and PR graphics — but Apple does. We are inclined to believe that all of the big answers to the next iPhone are embedded in the Let’s Talk iPhone graphic. It’s a riddle — and a brilliantly planned one at that, in that it doesn’t solidify anything, but makes a lot of suggestions.
I think it is significant that Apple chose October 4th and not the 5th for their announcement. Granted, Apple may have chosen the 4th just as a means of throwing off the prognosticators, but in the end, I think that their PR department likes it when things align nicely. The 4th suggests that the iPhone will have a 4 in its name. Also, there are four icons.
(One cooky idea I had is that the white space in between the icons forms a kind of plus sign, and the 4 plus the little 1 for the missed call equals five. But that seems a little too coded — even for Apple.)
Also, the “let’s talk iPhone” slogan fits in nicely with the recent rumor that iOS 5′s Assistant will be a flagship feature. It tells me that software will be the focus of this new iPhone, and that Apple feels it is enough to excite people to buy it.
Another reason I think that the iPhone will have “4″ in its name is that we’ve heard from our own source — with certainty on his part — that the next iPhone will retain the iPhone 4′s form factor. It is possible that he and his sources have just seen an iPhone 4 being manufactured for Asia, and, as I said above, Apple has just done a great job in keeping the new iPhone under wraps. But because Apple has re-used a form factor before (3G to 3Gs), there is a precedent for them doing it. Also, the iPhone 4 has been wildly successful over the past year and a half.
This isn’t to say that they might not bump up the size of the screen — but I think that there is a good chance that it will have to stay within the boundaries of the current iPhone’s specs.
Finally, I think there is a better chance than many acknowledge that the next iPhone could be 4G. There is a debate back and forth about whether the U.S. is ready for a 4G iPhone, with only the urban areas sporting 4G coverage. Even I found it doubtful at the onset of the iPhone 5 hype cycle. But in the end, I think 4G has gotten into the mainstream enough to give it a 50/50 chance.
On this final day, I am leaning towards an iPhone 4S or 4GS, with an iPhone 4-esque form factor, replacing the glass back with metal and maybe just tweaking the screen size up a bit. I remain unconvinced that there will be two new iPhones.
Let’s hope I’m wrong, and we get the big, bold iPhone 5 we’ve all bee dreaming of!
By Michael Nace