While we typically don't comment on rumors we don't know to be true at AnandTech, we often get requests to help set rational expectations ahead of major iDevice launches. The shroud of secrecy around major Apple launches can pave the way for both sensible and unrealistic conclusions.

Given the growth of Apple's iPhone/iPad devices, it has become increasingly difficult for suppliers in the chain to remain mum about any changes. Similar to how we often get early access to CPUs, motherboards and other components out of Taiwan, it has become increasingly commonplace to see leaks of iDevice components out of the big ODMs in China.

Apple is largely expected to launch its sixth iPhone next month. The historical cadence of design, SoC, and cellular changes are in the table below:

Apple iPhone - Historical Trends
  Release Year Industrial Design CPU Architecture GPU Architecture Cellular Architecture
iPhone 2007 1st gen ARM11 MBX-lite Infineon S-Gold 2
iPhone 3G 2008 2nd gen ARM11 MBX-lite Infineon X-Gold 608
iPhone 3GS 2009 2nd gen Cortex A8 SGX-535 Infineon X-Gold 608
iPhone 4 2010 3rd gen Cortex A8 SGX-535 Infineon X-Gold 618 in 4 GSM / Qualcomm MDM6600 in 4 CDMA
iPhone 4S 2011 3rd gen 2 x Cortex A9 SGX-543MP2 Qualcomm MDM6610 (MDM6600 w/ ext. trans)
iPhone Next 2012 ? ? ? ?

Trends are pretty easy to spot in the table. With the exception of the first iPhone, the industrial design appears to be on a 2-year cadence. The CPU and GPU architectures are also on the same 2-year cadence. From a silicon standpoint even the cellular architecture is trending towards the same 2-year cadence, with a few notable exceptions (e.g. GSM/CDMA iPhone 4 divide).

Based on historical trends alone it's pretty easy to conclude that we'll see a 4th generation chassis, a pair of ARM Cortex A9s and a PowerVR SGX 543MP2 under the hood. Add the assumption of LTE (a reasonable one to make) and you have a pretty believable story. It turns out the currently available evidence helps corroborate this, but let's dig through what's out there to see how this all fits.

Chassis & Display

The chassis is largely a known quantity by this point. Enough examples out of China have surfaced to support the current working theory of a 4-inch diagonal (16:9) display in a slightly taller chassis with roughly the same width. Put simply, it's a new taller aspect ratio, which also has the consequence of including a larger 4-inch, 640 x 1136 display. The result is a change only in one dimension for developers to worry about.

The other big rumored change is a move from on-cell touch sensing (which places the drive and detect ITO layers above the LCD assembly) to an in-cell touch solution. In-cell being the operative word because the drive layers are integrated into the LCD gating (or use it natively), or on the color filter layer. There's some debate about what counts as on-cell and in-cell that isn't quite settled, but ultimately what it boils down to is a thinner display stack that will contribute significantly to the reduction in overall device thickness that is rumored for the upcoming iPhone.

While the industrial design remains quite similar at a high level, there do appear to be some major changes. Where the 4 and 4S designs used front and back glass with an external metal band for support, the leaked designs out of China feature a metal unibody construction with cutouts for RF windows at top and bottom. There's enough evidence of this from the CNC machine marks visible on examples, and moreover moving to a larger form factor requires a beefier chassis.


Black regions at top and bottom are likely RF window cutouts

With top and bottom RF windows (which appear to be glass) there shouldn't be any implications on antenna performance for cellular. If you followed our coverage of the evolution of Apple's cellular antenna design from the iPhone 4 GSM, to 4 CDMA, to 4S, you'll notice that this is a clear next step, largely inheriting the top/bottom antenna split from the 4S which fully mitigated deathgrip. Interestingly enough the exterior band appears to have a different chrome finish rather than the matte stainless steel of previous designs.


Bottom flex cable, annotations ours

Other things like moving the 3.5mm headphone jack to the bottom of the device and the mini 9-pin dock connector are fairly well corroborated by leaks with components that all fit together inside the case. Interestingly enough, parts indicating the mini dock connector and relocated headphone jack have been circulating for nearly 4 months. 

The SoC
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  • Super56K - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    It's troubling that you pull the seniority card while sounding like a teenager with all the iSlander and hyperbole. I understand having dislike for company or brand X, but this is honestly the best way you have to voice that? Reply
  • Focher - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    If you had any dedication to your principles, you would be wandering the streets and castigating people whom you see with Apple products. if you choose to do this, I suggest focusing on any nearby bus or subway so you don't stand out. Reply
  • versesuvius - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    Not getting hit by an iSh.. will do just fine.

    Actually a good advice for iSh.. consumers, though.
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Beautiful design, great OS has everything a smart phone should have, and best battery life but...

    Why is it still rubbish at the basis function all phones should do - make and receive phone calls.

    In my office we run a mixture of phones some old style bricks, iPhones and Samsungs Galaxy IIs.

    The iPhone is by some distance the most flaky at phone calls, too many drop outs, voices fading out for no apparent reason. Even some friends who work very closely with Apple agree, if viewed purely as a phone with no "smarts", it is significantly weaker than 5 year old bricks from Nokia
    Reply
  • iwod - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Sure that is not some thing to do with carrier rather then phone? Reply
  • cjs150 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    At work we are all on the same carrier.

    The iPhone is simply not good enough at phone calls. It is fine with a strong signal and you do not move around, but if walking and signal fades then iPhone will drop the call faster than any other phone we use, or just go silent
    Reply
  • ajp_anton - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    With a larger device allowing a physically larger battery, why does its capacity increase by such a meaningless amount? Reply
  • A5 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    I think it is thinner, so the overall volume isn't that different despite being larger in L and W. Reply
  • yankeeDDL - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    I am not really sure what I expected, but is anyone else disappointed as I am?
    I am not an aApple user, and I will likely not become one after the iPhone5 is released, but I am interested in the trends, especially on the phones that are expected to set the standards.
    The larger screen is a welcomed addition: for me 4" is the minimum in a smartphone, so I am glad that the iPhone caught up.
    But no NFC? I am looking forward to NFC taking place and stop bringing my wallet around .. this won't hapen until all the mainstream phones will support it, so that's disappointing.
    The phone also doesn't seem to have anything revolutionary ... which is probably the intention. Still, I was hoping to see the screen size take up nearly all the area of the phone, while it doesn't.
    And what's with yet another proprietary connector? Why not USB + headphones, like every other normal phone?
    I thought that the EU passed a regulation that every phone should have a standard charger. I guess I was wrong.
    And what about making it easier to have an extra battery at the expense of slickness? My first mobile phone, 20 years ago, had 2 types of back cover: a thin/ligt and a thick/long-lasting. Can't compare really, but that phone lasted 2 weeks on a full charge with medium use (only a "phone" of course).

    Mah!
    Reply
  • MatthiasP - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    For you 4" are the minimum, for me it's pretty much the maximum for a device i have to carry around. I'm glad there is atleast one highend phone that isn't so ridiculously big. Reply

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