Thursday, August 29, 2013

iPhone 5S: Our best guess on the release date, specs, and availability for Apple's next iPhone

In a world where almost nothing is certain, this is basically certain: Apple will be having an event on September 10 where the company will announce two new iPhone models. Or so we think.

Despite CEO Tim Cook's pledge to double down on secrecy, it seems like we already know everything about what will be shown: from extremely detailed purported photos and teardowns of the external casing to color options, the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C seem inevitable. Therumors have been fast and furious, and increasingly seem to confirm a similar picture.

If rumors are true, Apple is set to bifurcate the new iPhone lineup into two lines: a more budget-targeted, plastic-backed, candy-colored "5C," and the higher-end iPhone 5S, which looks exactly the same to a casual eye as last year's iPhone 5.

                 What we think we know

Design: Think iPhone 5, with additional colors
Last year's iPhone 5 wasn't revolutionary, but it did amount to a top-to-bottom restyling and re-engineering of the iPhone 4/4S look into a totally new product. The 5S, on the other hand, looks like last year revisited, down to the two-tone metal/glass back and chamfered edges.

That might make this iPhone feel like one of the most boring iPhone releases ever, but it's a common pattern: new iPhone design one year, bumped-up version in same design the next (iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4S).

Those hoping for a jumbo-screen iPhone are likely to be disappointed, too. We're expecting the same-size 4-inch screen, likely with the same Retina resolution.

Well, there's one new thing: that gold-colored version floating around. Thankfully, unlike the gaudy versions originally envisioned, the "gold iPhone" is said to be more of a subtle champagne color.

Beyond gold/champagne, the standard white and black, there's also a rumor of a graphite (slate gray) model. The all-black iPhone 5's finish was scratch-prone, so a silver backing might make more sense. Bottom line: those who love shades of metal will be thrilled.

Inside: A7, new camera
All we've really seen, though, are outer casings. From those it can be gathered that there's a new LED flash in the next iPhone, and with it, most likely, an improved camera.

The iPhone 5S should also feature Apple's next A7 processor, which isn't a surprise (iPhone 4 had an A4, iPhone 4S an A5, and iPhone 5 an A6). Rumors claim it will continue to be a dual-core processor with an emphasis on improved system speed.

We wouldn't call iOS 7 an internal feature, but Apple's newest version of iOS will certainly debut alongside the next iPhone, and as in previous years, the new iPhone will represent the smoothest way to run the new software. History suggests that at least one or two features of iOS 7 will be iPhone 5S-specific, but the good news for existing iPhone owners is that Apple has already confirmed that the new OS will work on iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 models.

The myth (or reality) of fingerprint sensors
Perhaps the biggest new feature on the iPhone 5S could be a fingerprint sensor, which many claim will lurk right under the Home button.

What will a fingerprint sensor be used for? Increased security and maybe a way to encode and bypass entering passwords, but what else? For the everyday person, a fingerprint sensor would mainly make sense for simplified security and possibility some method of secure payment, although no rumors seem to discuss the latter.

Price and release date
We don't know either for sure, but if the iPhone 5S is announced on September 10, previous launch windows suggest availability the following Friday, September 20.

Price isn't much of a surprise, either: for years, the new iPhone's been $199/$299/$399. Expect that to hold true once again.