iPhone 5: Rounding up the rumors

Here's the latest roundup of Apple iPhone 5 rumors and speculation. The basic idea: It will be better than iPhone 4.

First, the next iPhone is now rumored to start production in midsummer, and to be released in September. That's according to Reuters, which cited "three people with direct knowledge of the company's supply chain." Big dilemma for us in the U.S. Buy one now with AT&T or Verizon, or wait until September (and pray the latest rumor is right about the timing)?

APPLE IPHONEYS: The iPhone 5 edition

According to Reuters, Largan Precision Co. will supply the camera module (there was speculation earlier that Sony would be the source of the much-improved module), Wintek Corp. will create the touchscreen panel and Foxconn Technology will craft the case. Foxconn's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. will do the final assembly.

Thanks to an off-the-cuff comment by Verizon's CFO this week, folks now expect that iPhone 5 will be able to shift between CDMA and GSM networks. That's a plus for Verizon because its iPhone 5 subscribers traveling abroad will be able to roam from the carrier's CDMA network to the more common GSM networks, as GSM-based AT&T subscribers can do. The CFO was quoted this week as saying the "next device" from Apple will put Verizon "on equal footing with our competitors on a new phone hitting the market, which will also be a global device."

But that doesn't mean the "world phone" iPhone will support high-bandwidth LTE (or "4G") networks. [see "Verizon LTE storms the South and Midwest"]

At this week's earnings call on Apple's record Q2 revenues and profits, Apple COO Tim Cook said the first-generation LTE chipsets "force a lot of design compromises." Apple isn't known for compromising, especially when it comes to product design issues. ("Cook added that the company is extremely pleased with the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS," CNET reported.)

In a CNET interview, Will Strauss, president of wireless chip market research firm Forward Concepts, explained why. "There are no true LTE handsets on the street aside from the HTC Thunderbolt -- and that's a kludge," he said. "It's big and it doesn't have a single LTE-3G chip. It has an LTE baseband (modem) chip and a second 3G chip from Qualcomm for the voice functions. They can't do voice over LTE now. Not Verizon. Not anybody."

But speculation continues that iPhone 5 will have a new, more powerful CPU: Apple's dual-core A5 processor, introduced in the new iPad 2. In the tablet, the new chip delivers "nine times the gaming performance of its predecessor." 9to5Mac is one of those that believes the iPhone 5 will have the A5 chip. "We have heard Apple is going to push this gaming performance and speed as one of the next-generation iPhone's major marketing points," the website reports.

The same story also says Apple is already working closely with selected developers to help them fully exploit this additional power: They've received a handset that is essentially a current-generation iPhone 4, but with an A5 chip replacing the A4, and a version of iOS 4 tweaked to support the new processor.

Beatweek's Bill Palmer expects iPhone 5 to have a 64GB model.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

Email: john_cox@nww.com

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