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The final iPhone 6 rumor rollup: what is Apple likely to do?

John Cox | Sept. 9, 2013
Improving, not changing, the "iPhone experience".

This week's iPhone Rumor Rollup, the last before Apple's expected iPhone revelations on Sept. 10, dispenses with rumor in favor of some informed speculation.

Twelve months after the iPhone 5 was announced, almost nothing is known about the details of the next iPhones (although we've been able to dream thanks to slew of iPhoneys: iPhone 6 and iPhone 5S design concepts). Apple is expected to announce the "iPhone 5S" and possibly a lower cost "iPhone 5C" with a plastic body instead of the aluminum and ceramic glass housing of the current model. There's still confusion over when an "iPhone 6" will be announced: this month, before year's end, first half of 2014, or later in 2014.

iPhone 5S
Appearance: Expect it to look the same. Apple's design looks to improve the phone, not simply change it. With its aluminum and ceramic glass body, the iPhone 5 achieved a quality of "fit and finish" that is still unparalleled in the smartphone market. It seems unlikely that Apple will change that. In the last few weeks, there have been photos that purported to show rear aluminum housings anodized with subtle gold or gray (or "champagne" and "slate") colors.

Fingerprint scanner: Long-rumored, and the beta code for iOS 7 has revealed references to such a scanner. The idea is that the scanner will be integrated into the home button to lock/unlock the phone. Yet by itself, this doesn't seem like a "killer feature." Its value increases if Apple can tie it into strengthened, expanded, and simplified online authentication and authorization; and in the future to mobile payments and a mobile "wallet."

Processor: the iPhones have showcased Apple's growing prowess in designing its A Series mobile processors (iPads typically have a modified version of a processor first appearing in an iPhone).

Don't expect a four-core chip and certainly not a 64-bit chip.

Instead, the "A7" is likely to use a variety of changes to improve performance and power efficiency. Writing at SemiWiki, on semiconductors, Daniel Nenni is certain that the A7 will be based on Samsung 28 nanometer silicon (the A6 is 32 nm). It could slightly boost clock speed. Apple can also tweak the micro-architecture of its custom-designed Swift cores (first introduced in the iPhone 5's A6), and the memory subsystem (more bandwidth, improved memory controller). The A6 currently uses Imagination's PowerVR triple-core graphics processing unit: Apple could boost this to improve graphics performance, or, as some believe, replace it with its own custom GPU.

Display: the iPhone 5 uses Liquid Crystal Display with In Plane Switching, while Samsung has adopted Organic Light Emitting Diode technology and made big improvements to it with the Samsung Galaxy S 4. But the iPhone display remains highly competitive, according to technical comparisons of the phones, by Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies, Amherst, N.H.


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