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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  • MatthiasP - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    I'm missing some wild speculation about the camera. Reply
  • Alchemy69 - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    So, basically it will be a tweaked 4S with a case sufficiently different that everyone knows you have the new one. I find that all too believable. Reply
  • A5 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Bigger screen + LTE + higher clocks are a fairly significant set of changes. Reply
  • GotThumbs - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Exactly!

    Apple will again be able to sell yet another generation iphone to its current iphone owners....so they can be the "first on the block". Seems kids just never grow up. It's still about having ice-cream and you don't. I'd like to know what the real difference is...other than fixing the flawed antenna and LTE. Oh! a means to get every Apple owner to buy new accessories to fit the new port connection.

    While I'll Never own an Apple product, I find Apple has been very savvy in getting the general consumer market to walk freely into Apples walled garden of control and zero options. When will the DOJ file against Apple for its Itunes requirement and its anti-competitive ways? The sheep number in the millions and I just keep watching from outside the walled garden.

    Interesting enough story. Since this is all based on conjecture.

    I find it interesting that Apples playbook seems to repeat itself, but hey their making billions on each incremental generation of one phone. Whats the saying...."A fool and his money.....?

    Best wishes,
    Reply
  • jrswizzle - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Aside from your wild generalizations about Apple users, I find the hatred for iTunes amusing. You are by no means the only person to express a deep loathing for the program but what I can't seem to figure out is why?

    With the advent of iCloud, the only time I use iTunes is as a media player through my computer or to sync up my old iPod classic. What is so awful about Mac's default media player that it would warrant a DOJ filing? There are other media players out there for music on your iPhone: pandora, spotify just to name a few and I'd argue they'd probably save the avid music fan some dough.

    My only complaint with the program is its support for legacy devices which makes it a monster in terms of computer resources, but this is being rectified with the new update this fall (as they vastly reduce the iPod line imo).

    We get that you hate Apple and love your "open source" OSes. But those of us who prefer simplicity, ease of use and stability will continue to use Apple products. We don't need your pity or your baseless, and offensive, generalizations about our CHOICES.
    Reply
  • jrswizzle - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    As for the article, it makes perfect sense. Apple has never been one to add features for the sake of adding features. If it improves the overall user experience you can bet they'll include it. It's not about doing things that are new and different, its about doing things better. And of the features iOS devices have, I can only think of 1 Android does better (Google Now vs. Siri). Reply
  • Assimilator87 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    I hope Apple surprises us and throws in a 32nm A5X. I'll be jumping ship to iOS when my Palm Pre 2 dies. I've used Android on my tablet and the much smaller game selection, on top of the fragmentation due to all the SoCs, makes it excruciating. Reply
  • name99 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    It's bizarre that the people who go on about "sheep" behavior seem the most clueless about human psychology.

    As I have said before, the issue is not coolness, it is delight.

    - coolness is other directed. It was what other companies ship. It is about how OTHER people view you and your device. It is about having a few gimmicks you can show others so that they ooh and ahh.
    - what Apple ships is not coolness, it is DELIGHT. Delight is SELF-DIRECTED. It is about devices that bring you joy day after day, and who cares whether they demo well, or can be shown to others.

    Samsung, right now, is a company that cares a lot about coolness, and nothing about delight. That's why, to take a recent example, they ship a Note 10.1 with two flashy features you can show your friends --- pen, and the equivalent of MacOS 1.0's desk accessories, allowing you to open multiple apps at once --- but both these features actually perform horrendously. They do the cool job fine --- show them to your friends for a few minutes and they will be impressed --- but they do the delight job abysmally.

    And one of the ways that you engender delight is what Apple is doing here, constant refinement . When you buy your next phone, it feels familiar --- just better in every way.
    Reply
  • Tegeril - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    This, exactly. Reply
  • JoshAlfie - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    This is actually a very interesting analysis. Nice one. Reply

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