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The new iPhone 5: rumours, tech specs, Liquidmetal, 3D cameras, 4in display and more

Mark Hattersley | May 21, 2012
What will Apple reveal in the new iPhone.

iPhone 5: A5X or A6 CPU, Liquidmetal, and a physical redesign

It's likely that Apple is ready to introdue the new quad-core A6 CPU rather than use the A5X processor in the new iPad. Mostly because the dual-core A5 (with faster graphics) seems specifically designed to power a Retina display iPad, and would have little effect on the new iPhone. If the iPhone 5 has a faster processor it will probably be powered by a ARM quad-cortex-A9 and designed using a new 28nm process (it'll be one of the first chips in existence at 28nm - the smaller specification enables more transisters to be packed into the same space, enabling smaller and more power efficient devices, or faster CPUs in the same space). The clock speed is likely to be modest, between 1-1.5GHz (up from the 800Mhz to 1GHz of the new iPad). Although we think Apple may veer on the side of caution here. Apple has consistently upped the processing speed of the iPhone in order for it to introduce new features like multi-tasking, video recording, and Siri as well as power better and more feature-packed apps like iPhoto.

Liquidmetal casing

The very name conjures up a new slick, amorphous technology - perhaps made of water, or waterproof (which the iPhone 5 may be, but it's nothing to do with this). Liquidmetal is the commercial name for a new type of alloy that is strong, resistent to corrosion, and has a "high coefficient of restituion" (a posh way of saying it's 'bouncy' - we're not making this up, an experiment with ball bearings found they bounced three times as high on a Liquidmetal plate). Don't expect the iPhone 5 to bounce, but it may be stronger and less-prone to breaking. Dr. Atakan Peker, Liquidmetal's inventor explained: "Liquidmetal is super strong, scratch and corrosion resistant, resilient and can be precision cast into complex shapes. Apple's exclusively licensing a new material technology (specifically for casing and enclosures) is a first in the industry. I expect Apple to use this technology in a breakthrough product." (Business Insider). The alloy has been used in a limited way (some SIM-ejector tools are made from it) but we think eventually Apple will put it to a more comprehensive use.

A mock-up of how a Liquidmetal case could look. Credit: Nak Design

A new look for the iPhone 5

A redesign of some sorts is on the cards. After Apple launched the iPhone 4 and 4S with the same design, we think it's likely that it will do something different this time. Rumours mostly focus on the idea of a thinner phone with a metal rear; this could possibly look more like the iPad (or iPod touch). Betting on any Apple device consistently getting thinner and smaller with fewer buttons is always a safe bet, although the size of the iPhone (including screen) as remained fairly consistent for the last five years; suggesting that Apple is largely happy with the decisions it made during the original launch. More controversial design suggestions seem to focus around the Home button, which many pundits are suggesting will become a flatter, squarer shape. Perhaps replaced with a touch-sensitive strip, rather than a physical push button (some people have speculated that the wider button will still push down but will also be touch sensitive so you can swipe left and right across it). Apple has also patented virtual touch controls for the side of a device, presumably to enable it to remove the physical buttons from the iPhone and replace. That Apple dislikes buttons (especially uneccessary ones) is beyond doubt, and we're sure it's design team has given the Home buttons (as well as Volume and Mute buttons) a good stern stare. Whether that translates to actually removing the buttons is another matter - we think they'll stick around for a few more generations yet.


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