danbo at the Japanese language Apple-watcher blogsite Macotakara cites “reliable Chinese sources” telling him that production of the new iPhone has started the manufacture phase, with images of “iPhone 5 cases” being leaked at Alibalba.com. Production starting now would be consistent with stockpiling of inventory for a late September or October product launch.
danbo’s source also allows that “iPhone 5″ images that had been revealed in May via 9to5Mac were of a prototype for design testing, and that the actual production version of the new iPhone is different from the test device in several design details, including, according to this source, a back cover with a “naked aluminum surface and partially glass covered part,” and that a mysterious small hole that had been evident in between the LED flash and camera lens in the test mule shots, has now disappeared or been made “invisible.”
A partial aluminum back would make the iPhone more rugged and resistant to drop damage, with a retained glass insert section key to maintaining good antenna range, with the antennas relocated inside the phone’s housing enclosure, and would also locate the rear-facing camera, flash, and a microphone for recording sound in video clips.
The alleged production machine has a new 16:9 display — somewhat longer but not wider than the iPhone 4S’s 3.5-inch panel, and is still on track for a fall launch according to rumors cited Monday by HardMac’s Lionel, who also notes that one question remaining unresolved is what CPU (or more accurately SOC – System On Chip) will be used in the new Apple phone. Lionel observes that while the current trend in smartphones is to go with quad-core silicon, in his estimation Apple would be wiser to stick with dual core SOCs for the iPhone in order to help keep power consumption low in the interest of extending battery life, observing that even the latest iOS apps aren’t overburdening the iPhone 4S’s dual-core processor power.
I agree with that, and have been maintaining that the downsized but still powerful 32nm A5 SOC being used in the latest iterations of the $399 iPad 2 would be the logical chip for the new iPhone. There would seem to be little point in going with the A5X variant with its quad-core graphics engine that powers the third-generation iPad, since it uses bulkier, less power efficient 45nm technology, and the more powerful graphics are not needed to support the iPhone’s much smaller Retina display.
As for the latest purportedly leaked iPhone 5 photos, I don’t put a whole lot of stock in such shots, since they’re just too easily fabricated or cobbled up using digital imaging software. However a recent image reported on here by Michael Nace appears consistent with the current rumors cited by Macotakara and HardMac. I think the most plausible likelihood is of a new iPhone with a somewhat but not extravagantly larger display with HD aspect ratio, LTE, and upgraded cameras, but not a radical departure from the classic iPhone form factor which remains pretty tough to beat ergonomically and functionally, and with strong continuing emphasis on maintaining or even enhancing battery life.
I suspect that those who are hoping for a radical iPhone form factor redesign with a LiquidMetal housing, a curved glass display matching or exceeding the Samsung Galaxy S III’s 4.8-inch panel in dimensions, and sporting quad-core (A6?) SOC power, are likely to be disappointed.