WiFi

Improvements to WiFi come every generation partly just due to better combo chips coming from Broadcom's aggressive roadmap in that space, and we wouldn't be surprised to see further generational improvement here. If you read our reviews, this will sound like a broken record, but the inclusion of 5 GHz WiFi support in smartphones is something that is starting to become relatively mainstream at the high end, and we wouldn't be shocked to see the iPhone follow suit.

The location of that antenna moved from the external metal band on the GSM iPhone 4 to an internal printed one with the CDMA iPhone 4 so that the top band could be repurposed for cellular receive diversity, something the 4S inherited. I would strongly expect that to continue with the next device given the aforementioned MIMO requirements for LTE. Multi spatial stream support for WiFi is still basically out of the question, improvements in this space are again possible 5 GHz support with 40 MHz channels, which we've seen from BCM4334 in other shipping devices already.

Apple iPhone - WiFi Trends
  Release Year WiFi + BT Support WiFi Silicon
iPhone 2007 802.11 b/g, BT 2.0+EDR Marvell W8686, CSR BlueCore
iPhone 3G 2008 802.11 b/g, BT 2.0+EDR Marvell W8686, CSR BlueCore
iPhone 3GS 2009 802.11 b/g, BT 2.1+EDR Broadcom BCM4325
iPhone 4 2010 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz), BT 2.1+EDR Broadcom BCM4329
iPhone 4S 2011 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz), BT 4.0+EDR Broadcom BCM4330
iPhone Next 2012 ? Broadcom BCM4334?

 

Battery

Battery life on a device is obviously a function of the inherent efficiency of its components, but also is a function of overall battery capacity. Increasing the size of that tank obviously gets you immediate gains in overall lifetime, at the expense of increasing the mass or volume of the device. The iPhone has been no stranger to increases in battery life, and in fact the iPhone 4 realized a considerable jump in overall battery size thanks to the side by side PCB / battery split that has now dominated smartphone design. Since then we haven't seen as much of an increase in capacity, and meanwhile some Android phones are shipping batteries as large as nearly 8 Whr (2100 MaH, 3.8V in SGS3).


Higher capacity iPhone Battery (courtesy: 9to5Mac)

Recent leaks out of China have, howver, indicated that the next iPhone will likely move to a higher voltage chemistry, up from 3.7 V nominal to 3.8 V nominal. This follows the move that Motorola made over a year ago to the 3.8 V nominal chemistry where I saw it the first time. Since then Motorola has shipped almost all its phones with 3.8 V batteries, followed by Nokia and Samsung. Thus it seems highly likely that Apple will also move to this chemistry given maturity and the tangible benefits it provides to battery lifetime.

Apple iPhone - Battery Trends
  Release Year Battery
iPhone 2007 1400 mAh, 3.7V (5.18 Wh)
iPhone 3G 2008 1150 mAh, 3.7V (4.25 Wh)
iPhone 3GS 2009 1219 mAh, 3.7V (4.51 Wh)
iPhone 4 2010 1420 mAh, 3.7V (5.25 Wh)
iPhone 4S 2011 1430 mAh, 3.7V (5.29 Wh)
iPhone Next 2012 1440 mAh, 3.8V (5.47 Wh)

 

Conclusions

Based on everything we've seen, and the analysis on the previous pages, it seems likely that the next iPhone will feature a dual-core Cortex A9 SoC built on Samsung's 32nm LP (HK+MG) process, with a PowerVR SGX 543MP2 driving a larger 4-inch display. Battery capacity will see a slight bump, but battery life itself should be measurably better compared to the iPhone 4S thanks to a move to 28/32nm silicon for the baseband and apps processor. LTE and TD-SCDMA support will likely be driven by a Qualcomm MDM9x15. Evolutionary improvements in the WiFi stack are a reasonable expectation, however NFC support isn't. There are still questions about final details (e.g. camera sensors) but a lot of what Apple has been doing with the iPhone closely follows an aggressive 2-year design and silicon cadence. It's the relentless competition and hyper Moore's Law curve in the smartphone space that drive Apple's development cycle here. I don't expect much change here for the next couple of years at least.

Despite the annual release schedule and a 2-year cadence for most silicon elements, Apple also appears to remain relatively conservative in how it adopts new technologies. Process nodes, new chip architectures, and new wireless standards are all evaluated with a fairly conservative eye. Apple's iPhone business is a well oiled machine at this point, any unnecessary risks are consistently avoided.

NFC, Unlikely
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  • alxx - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    but do ordinary consumers really care about whats under the hood(unlike us) ?

    A phone that works and with good battery life.
    And whats on special at the carriers with a decent plan wins over the phone choice most of the time.
    Reply
  • swb311 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    False, iOS is a thrifty OS that uses resources far better and efficiently than an off-the-shelf component thanks to Apple's custom designed silicon. So it may not look the same on paper, but the processor will feel just as fast. No one needs a quad core phone yet (apps are not prepared) so why take the battery hit? I'd rather have an upclocked dual core honestly. Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    "The iPhone is the new dumbphone"

    Considering that the iOS app selection is the best and largest of any mobile ecosystem, I'd say no, pretty much the opposite
    Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    "they mgiht go for dual A9 (they certainly won't go quad) but that's so far behind the top phones"

    Even most PC applications don't use quad-cores, forget smartphones. No smartphone multitasks applications enough where quads would really matter. We're a few years away from where quad core SoCs are needed in cellphones. Until then it is marketing for neckbeards who look at spec pages without regard to practical usage scenarios or performance.
    Reply
  • iampivot - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    What about a fingerprint scanner?

    It seems obvious that one could be included in the home button, which would facilitate instantaneous verification of the user when doing NFC purchases.
    Reply
  • 8steve8 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    no a15? Reply
  • A5 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Won't be ready and it wouldn't fit Apple's supply chain model to take a risk like that on the CPU. The article lays out the reasoning pretty clearly. Reply
  • iwod - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Not a faster SoC really annoys me, Krait from Qualcomm and Tegra etc... Quad Core ARM A9,
    a simple die shrinks? Or may be they bump the Frequency to 1.5Ghz or higher?
    Reply
  • Dekker - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Even in the PC world the benefit of quad core is limited for many types of usage (email, web and office hardly benefit at all). I'm not convinced that absent a proper multitasking model in Android/iOS there is much benefit to going quad core (particularly if it reduces battery life). At this stage a slightly faster clock or more memory seems to be a more viable approach. Reply
  • iwod - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    On PC we have Dual Thread from Single Core which accounts for 4 Threads with Dual Core. Mobile Dual Core we are still stuck at 2 threads. For the usage on mobile 4 threads will properly bring less benefits then on Desktop, but still large enough to warrant it. Having more then 2 threads for running the OS and Apps would help. Although we may wait big.LITTLE for that. Dual Core Cortex A7 + Dual Core Cortex A15.

    The Samsung GS3 has 4 Core 1.4Ghz SoC, I will have to see how Apple will pull its marketing and convince me to buy a Phone that is MUCH less powerful, and possibly even more expensive.
    Reply

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