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iPhone 5, iPhone 4S - A Rumor Roundup and Retrospective

According to new shots showing alleged leaked parts for the upcoming iPhone 5, website MacPost.net (via MacRumors) shows a white back cover from an Apple internal prototype iPhone dated June 7, 2011, labeled N94 and EVT (Engineering Verification Test). In Apple’s prototype design cycle, the EVT monicker is one step ahead of DVT, which stands for Design Verification Test. As you can see from the purported leaked part, the design of the back cover is largely similar (if not the same) to the current-gen iPhone 4, adding more speculation to the rumors suggesting the next-generation iPhone, dubbed iPhone 5, will share the same design of the existing iPhone, only adding a new processor, better camera, and other minor speed bumps.

There’s been a bit of confusion in the past months regarding rumors floating around Apple’s next iPhone. Whereas the N94 and N93 codenames found in the iOS 5.0 SDK (actually, N94 showed up in iOS 4.3) clearly referred to a device running the same A5 processor of the iPad 2 (the iPhone 4 has an A4 processor), multiple sources couldn’t agree on whether Apple was on track to deliver one iPhone this Fall – the iPhone 5 – with a major redesign, a new iPhone with the same design but better specs, or two iPhones aimed at different markets and users.

For this reason, in the most recent weeks a differentiation in rumors has arisen to separate the iPhone 5 from an alleged “iPhone 4S”. The “4S” name, used as an unofficial monicker for the first time by 9to5mac in April, was initially used in regards to a prototype iPhone 4 with an A5 chip reportedly sent to developers for testing – thus not necessarily representing a final product – but has evolved with time into a widely-accepted rumor indicating a second product from Apple that could also refer to a cheaper iPhone the company is working on for pre-paid markets.

Again, there is a lot of confusion around the terms “iPhone 5”, “next-generation iPhone”, and “iPhone 4S”. However, sticking to SDK findings and reliable photographs of unreleased models – not just rumors without evidence – might be the best chance to guess what’s coming in October.

First off, N94 refers to an iPhone carrying the A5 processor, an obvious choice for Apple. With increased performances, low-power consumption and a huge leap forward in terms of graphics rendering, the A5 has been a success on the iPad and there’s no reason why Apple wouldn’t use it in a future iPhone. For reference, the current-gen iPhone 4 was codenamed N90 and N92 for its GSM and CDMA variations, respectively. N93 and N94 might be related to carrier variations of the same iPhone model or two new entirely different products – this can’t confirmed. However, N94 isn’t only present in the iOS 5 SDK: aside from today’s MacPost pictures, BGR showed photos of an unreleased iPhone model running on T-Mobile’s 3G bands back in April. The iPhone was white, like today’s back cover shots, and it was codenamed N94, running a test version of iOS with several Apple-only apps and utilities. Furthermore, MacRumors is now associating those photos from April to a new part leak that seems to depict a redesigned antenna for the iPhone 4-like new iPhone, whatever it may be. The iPhone 4 antenna design was behind the so-called Antennagate media debacle last year, so it would make sense for Apple to redesign it only to avoid further discussion.

Rounding up the evidence about N94 – again, one of the two unreleased iPhone models mentioned by the iOS SDK – it appears that this model will have an iPhone 4-like design, a slightly redesigned antenna, an A5 processor, and it’s been tested on T-Mobile.

However, it’s still not clear whether what we call “iPhone 5” is actually a tweaked iPhone 4 (thus N94), or an all-new model that hasn’t surfaced in the SDK and leaked parts just yet. For as much as new cables and connectors suggest Apple is tweaking the internal specs of an iPhone, they don’t offer confirmation of the device’s design and external look.

To bring some clarity to this whole iPhone 4S/iPhone 5/two iPhones debate we’ve collected the most notable rumors from the past months, in order to see, now that a possible release date is nearing, how speculation evolved and changed over time.

October 2010 - May 2011 iPhone 5 Rumors

Verizon iPhone Hits Testing Stage, iPhone 5 Goes “EVT” - BGR speculates the “iPhone 5” has hit EVT stage - October 18, 2010

iPhone 5 To Hook Up With Any Mac via NFC Technology - rumors start circulating about a possible NFC implementation in the next-generation iPhone - November 1, 2010

iPhone 5 To Feature Apple A5 CPU? - The iPhone 5 is first described as a “completely redesigned handset” by Engadget, with claims of a summer 2011 launch, “total rethink” from a design standpoint, A5 CPU, and Qualcomm chip for GSM-CDMA-UMTS duties - no LTE - January 15, 2011

Apple Adds iPhone 5 Suppliers, Launch “During Summer At The Earliest” - Digitimes claims Apple is adding iPhone 5 suppliers for a launch “during summer at the earliest” - January 21, 2011

Apple Prototyping A 2.3″ iPhone At $200 Without Contract? Customers To Choose Own Network? - Here’s when it starts getting really crazy in the Apple rumor mill. Bloomberg reports Apple wants to build multiple iPhone models to compete with Android’s handset choice, with one said to be “a third smaller” than the iPhone 4. Bloomberg says Apple wants a cheaper iPhone at $200 to lure more customers off-contract, and the device could use the same components of the iPhone 4 – which have dropped in price over time – to avoid higher costs of newer parts - February 10, 2011

iPhone 5 To Feature 4-inch Screen? - Digitimes reports Apple will change the size of the fifth generation iPhone to 4-inch to compete with the Android platform - February 15, 2011

New York Times: There’s No iPhone Nano, New MobileMe Will Be Free - The NYT says Apple doesn’t want to make the iPhone smaller, only cheaper. They also report the next version of the iPhone is “likely” to be similar in size to the current iPhone 4 - February 18, 2011

White iPhone 4 Still Missing, White iPhone 5 Rumors Begin - The Economic Daily News says Apple will have a white iPhone 5 - February 22, 2011

iPhone 5 In September? - The rumor that started the “iPhone 5 this fall” theory surprisingly comes from an analyst’s report. FBR Capital Markets analyst Craig Berger says in a note to investors that a July launch for the iPhone 5 is unlikely, and the device could come out in September - February 22, 2011

First iPhone 5 Part Surfaces, Shows Larger Screen - A photo from a Chinese reseller shows an alleged iPhone 5 part with a bigger, edge-to-edge screen - February 26, 2011

iPhone 5 To Revert Back To Aluminum Back And Internal Antenna? - The Economic Daily News reports the iPhone 5 won’t feature a glass back cover, adopting an iPod-touch like design with aluminum - March 7, 2011

iOS 4.3 for iPad 2 Suggests iPhone 5 Will Get Apple A5 - The first mention of N94 in the iOS SDK - March 9, 2011

Alleged iPhone 5 Design Documents Show Bigger Screen - Purported engineering diagrams of the iPhone 5 coming from China show a bigger screen for the next-generation iPhone - March 11, 2011

New York Times: A Future iPhone Will Include NFC, Perhaps Not The iPhone 5 - The NYT claims not necessarily the next-generation iPhone will feature near-field communication - March 21, 2011

WWDC To Be Software Focused, No iPhone 5 Launch? - Well-connected Apple journalist Jim Dalrymple is first to break the news that WWDC 2011 won’t bring any new iPhone, iPad or Mac hardware, thus confirming earlier rumors of no new iPhone 5 in the summer - March 28, 2011

iPhone 5 To Feature 8-Megapixel Camera from Sony? - Statements from Sony CEO Howard Stringer rise doubts as to whether Sony could supply an improved camera for Apple’s next iPhone - April 2, 2011

iPhone 5 Won’t Feature “All-New Design” - Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo with Concord Securities issues a note to investors saying that Apple’s new iPhone will be a slight modification of the current iPhone 4, with an A5 processor and new Qualcomm chip for GSM and CDMA bands. Ming-Chi Kuo also claims the device will come equipped with iOS 5, go into “trial production” in August for mass production and retail distribution in September - April 18, 2011

Reuters: iPhone 5 In September, Looks Similar to iPhone 4 - Reuters claims the iPhone 5 will have the same design of the iPhone 4, a faster processor, and it will begin shipping in September - April 20, 2011

Verizon CFO Fran Shammo Hints At Global iPhone 5 - Verizon’s Fran Shammo hints at “a new device from Apple” which will “also be a global device” - April 21, 2011

Rumor milestoneiPhone 5 To Feature 3.7-inch Screen, Larger Home Button, Thinner Design? - This is the big report from This is my next that’s still referenced as a source for possible iPhone 5 design and specs. According to the website, the new iPhone model looks more similar to the iPod touch than the iPhone 4, with a thinner design and “teardrop shape” that goes from thick to thin like the MacBook Air. The report also details a complete redesign of the iPhone 4 with a 3.7-inch screen that would allow Apple to keep the “Retina Display” tagline, a larger Home button that could double as a gesture area, edge-to-edge screen, NFC and worldphone capabilities. This report has affected iPhone 5 rumors and speculation since it came out. - April 22, 2011

Apple Testing iPhone On T-Mobile USA With A5 Processor? - BGR shows the N94 iPhone prototype running on T-Mobile we’ve mentioned above - April 24, 2011

“iPhone 5G” Case Suggests Thinner Bezel, New Camera Flash Placement - The case leaks begin. A case surfaced on e-commerce website Alibaba shows an iPhone with a thinner bezel and mysterious new camera placement although, as usual, Chinese case reseller aren’t the most trustable source when it comes to early leaked design - typically, they want to get their cases ready even if the information and specs they’ve got is based on wrong assumptions and rumors - May 14, 2011

iPhone 5 Parts Confirm New Camera Flash Position? - On the same day of the iPhone 5G case, new leaked parts surface showing a new position for the camera flash - May 14, 2011

Recent iPhone 5 Rumors

OmniVision and Sony to Supply 8-Megapixel Camera for iPhone 5 - Digitimes claims both Sony and OmniVision will supply orders for the fifth generation iPhone’s camera - June 7, 2011

iPhone 5 Reaches Final Testing Stage, Launching In September - The iPhone 5 reportedly reaches AP testing stage and is carried around by Apple executives, N93 and N94 codenames surface in the iOS 5 SDK, and the device is set for a September launch - June 13, 2011

Next iPhone To Feature A5 Processor And 8 Megapixel Camera - Bloomberg, which reported in February Apple was working on a smaller iPhone, says the iPhone 5 will feature a “more advanced camera” with an 8-megapixel sensor, as well as a faster processor. The publication suggests Apple is working on a cheaper version of the iPhone that will use the same iPhone 4 components, though they also reiterate the rumor of a “smaller” design - June 22, 2011

iPhone 5 To Feature Dual-LED Flash? - Digitimes claims the iPhone 5 will have not one, but two camera flash units - June 23, 2011

WSJ: iPhone 5 Is Thinner And Lighter - The Wall Street Journal reports the iPhone 5 will have a thinner and lighter design, an 8MP camera, and it was apparently pushed to the Fall instead of the usual June release timeframe because it wasn’t ready - July 7, 2011

iPhone 5 Actually Set For An October Launch? - AllThingsD claims the iPhone 5 will be an “October surprise”, whilst another rumor from July 27 suggested Apple could launch the device in the second week of September.

Rumor milestoneMacRumors Mocks up the iPhone 5 Based on Design Specifications - Another breakthrough in the iPhone 5’s rumor mill is MacRumors’ set of mockups based on speculation gathered in the recent months. The mockups show a thinner iPhone with aluminum back and iPod touch-like design, and they back up This is my next’s original claims with a larger Home button and bigger edge-to-edge screen. These mockups have been used in the recent weeks to indicate a likely iPhone 5 design - August 10, 2011

iPhone 5 Pre-Orders Starting on September 30, October 7 Launch? - Two separate reports are now claiming the iPhone 5 pre-orders could start on September 30, with the device launching on October 7 in the United States. This backs up AllThingsD’s strong claims of an October launch for the iPhone 5 - August 16, 2011

App Developer Logs Suggest An iPhone 5 With Dual-Mode Support - Developers start seeing logs in their iOS applications showing a new device from Apple with both GSM and CDMA capabilities - August 23, 2011

WSJ: iPhone 5 in mid-October On Verizon, AT&T, And Sprint - The Wall Street Journal’s most recent report indicates the iPhone 5 will be sold in mid-October on a variety of U.S. carriers including Sprint - August 23, 2011

Update (Sept. 21)

Bloomberg: Sprint To Sell iPhone 5 Next Month with Unlimited Data - Bloomberg reiterates the WSJ’s rumor – the iPhone 5 will be available on Sprint in mid-October, and the carrier will offer an unlimited data plan to distinguish itself from AT&T and Verizon - September 9, 2011

iOS 5 Beta 8 on Friday, GM Next Week, France Telecom CEO Suggests iPhone 5 Launching October 15th - iOS 5 is nearing completion, and France Telecom CEO says he’s heard the new iPhone will be available around October 15th - September 13, 2011

“Fairly Different” iPhone 5 with 8 MP Camera, A5 Processor “Just Weeks Away” - The New York Times claims that a new iPhone announcement is “just weeks away”, and that according to Apple employees who have seen the device, the iPhone 5 will look different from the existing iPhone 4, with improved specs as previously rumored - September 15, 2011

Further Reports Of Two New iPhone Models, Supply Issues For The iPhone 5? - According to 9to5mac, Apple is about to release two new iPhone models: a cheaper iPhone 4-like device, and the “impossibly light” iPhone 5 - September 16, 2011

Rumor milestone: September 21, 2011 - Apple’s Next Keynote Scheduled for October 4? - AllThingsD reports Apple is planning to hold its next media event on Tuesday, October 4th. According to sources close to the matter, Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook will preside over the event to announce the iPhone 5. Well-connected journalist Jim Dalrymple weighs in and comments on AllThingsD’s report with a single “Yep”.

Update (Oct. 2)

Apple Confirms: Media Event on October 4th - Apple confirms an earlier report of its next keynote scheduled for October 4th, sending out invitations to the press for an event in Cupertino. The invitation reads “Let’s talk iPhone”, suggesting that the company will unveil the next-generation iPhone, and possibly hinting at voice recognition features of the device as well - September 27th, 2011

iPhone 5 Prototype from Foxconn Sold To Case Manufacturer? - According to M.I.C. Gadget, the proliferation of third-party cases for a “completely redesigned” iPhone 5 with bigger screen and tapered screen is related to an iPhone 5 prototype leaked by Foxconn to a case manufacturer - September 27th, 2011

iPhone “4S”

Rumor milestone: April 21, 2011 - 9to5mac describes a prototype iPhone 4 with A5 chip as “iPhone 4S”

iPhone 4S Coming with HSPA+, Minor Design Changes - Jefferies analyst Peter Misek claims that, according to industry checks, the iPhone 4S will have minor cosmetic changes and an A5 processor. In this report, the iPhone 4S is considered Apple’s fifth generation iPhone, not a separate device from the main product line - May 13, 2011

iPhone 4S To Go Into Production In August, Apple Reducing iPhone 4 Shipments - Digitimes starts referring to Apple’s non-LTE next iPhone as “iPhone 4S” - May 18, 2011

iPhone 4S with A5, Sim-less? “Major New” iPhone 5 Due in 2012 - According to this report, the iPhone 4S is due in 2011 with an A5 chip and SIM-less design, whilst the “real” iPhone 5 is coming out in 2012 - May 30, 2011

Rumor milestoneApple is building two (!) iPhones for September release - At this point, the iPhone 5 rumor mill starts separating the iPhone 5 from the iPhone 4S, thanks to a note issued by Deutsche Bank’s analyst Chris Whitmore in which he tells clients to expect both the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S in September. He says that Apple needs to penetrate the mid-range smartphone market with a cheaper model, and the 4S is the perfect possibility to sell a high-quality device at a lower price because of old components from the iPhone 4 -June 27, 2011

A Tale Of Two iPhones - MG Siegler at TechCrunch says we shouldn’t read into the “4S” name too much, and expect a real iPhone 5 this fall alongside what he calls an “iPhone lite” – a cheaper iPhone. - June 27, 2011

Leaked Photos of Supposed iPhone ‘Light’ Surface Online - Photos of an alleged iPhone 4-like white “iPhone 4S” surface on a Vietnamese forum board - July 28, 2011

“Innovative, Category-Killer Experience” Key Requirement For A Cheaper iPhone - RBC Capital Markets meets with two Apple executives and says Apple won’t launch a cheaper iPhone unless it’s innovative in its category - August 5, 2011

Apple To Offer A Cheaper 8 GB iPhone 4 Within Weeks - On the same day of the Wall Street Journal’s latest iPhone 5 rumor, Reuters reports Apple will launch a revised iPhone 4 – supposedly, what the rumor mill calls “4S” – with smaller, cheaper 8 GB flash drive “within weeks” - August 23, 2011

Update (Sept. 21)

Leaked Photos Show “iPhone 4S” Device with A5 Chip, iPhone 4 Design - New purported “iPhone 5” components surface, showing a mainboard with an embedded A5 CPU. It appears, however, that these leaked parts depict the upcoming “iPhone 4S” device, rather than the “real”, redesigned iPhone 5 - September 19, 2011

Update (Oct. 2)

“iPhone 4S” Name Shown On OtterBox Case Packaging - According to a series of leaked photos, third-party case maker OtterBox is already producing cases for an “iPhone 4S” device, with the name shown on the packaging - September 22, 2011

iPhone 5 To Include New iOS 5 “Assistant” Voice Feature - As rumors are heating up about a possible iPhone 4S announcement at Apple’s October 4th event, a report claims the iPhone 5 (a generic name for the next-generation iPhone at this point) will include Assistant, a new voice-based feature that will use the device’s 1 GB of RAM and A5 processor to execute a variety of tasks with your voice - September 26, 2011

Rumor: New iPhone And iPod Touch Models Appear In Apple’s Inventory - New iPod touch models and the “N90A” iPhone appear in Apple’s internal inventory system. N90A should be a revised version of the iPhone 4 (N90) with cheaper price and 8 GB of storage, the same that was previously reported by Reuters - September 28, 2011

“iPhone 4S” Name Found In Latest iTunes Beta - A code string in Apple’s iTunes 10.5 beta reports the “iPhone 4S” name, with an image placeholder associated to the older CDMA iPhone 4. This seems to confirm the iPhone 4S (codename N94) is an official name, and it will share the same iPhone 4 design, with improved specs - October 1, 2011

iPhone Parts For An N90A Model Found In Foxconn’s Brazil Factory? - As the iPhone 4S is starting to look like the next-generation iPhone that will be unveiled on October 4th, leaked shots from Foxconn Brazil point again to the cheaper N90A iPhone 4 - October 1, 2011

iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, Cheaper iPhone 4…?

As Apple’s October 4th event approaches, it appears the company won’t announce a completely redesigned device with bigger screen and tapered edges – dubbed the “iPhone 5” so far – but an “iPhone 4S” with 1 GB of RAM, A5 CPU, dual-mode GSM-CDMA, and other minor improvements with a design similar to the existing iPhone 4. The lack of iPhone 5-related leaks – except for unofficial third-party cases – seems to suggest a redesigned device isn’t being manufactured, and the references in iTunes are pointing to a new “iPhone 4S” device.

To recap the various codenames and monickers, here’s what the difference between iPhone 4S/iPhone 5 stands for in the rumors:

iPhone 4S: N94 codename, iPhone 4-like design. A5 processor, 1 GB of RAM, possibly better camera,dual-mode GSM-CDMA, HSPA+, same screen size, SGX 543MP2 GPU. Assistant voice-recognition feature.

iPhone 5: codename unknown, “completely redesigned” with bigger screen and tapered edges.

Cheaper iPhone 4: N90A codename – an iPhone 4 with 8 GB of storage.

The iPhone 4S should become the flagship iPhone, with the iPhone 4 sliding to low-end with a new 8 GB option. There are no signs of “iPhone 5” being manufactured, which has generated some confusion as many are simply using the “iPhone 5” monicker to indicate the “new iPhone” that comes after the iPhone 4.

This Fall

As you can see from the roundup and list of previous rumors above, the tech scene is far from certain as to what to expect from Apple’s next iPhone. Speculation has been running wild in the past months, and different reports from a variety of sources contradicted each other about a single iPhone refresh this year, whether it’d be a minor or major one, and more importantly, the importance of targeting the pre-paid market segment with a cheaper iPhone. If we had to make an educated guess, we’d look into the latest reports from The Wall Street Journal and Reuters, posted on the same day and covering the iPhone 5 and the “revised iPhone 4”, as a possible sign of multiple devices coming from Apple in two months, although it’s not clear if a media event could be take place in September as usual, or early in October. Analyzing rumors is always a tricky and complicated business, and at the end of the day we might really be in for a “surprise” this fall – meaning, the next iPhone comes when Apple wants to.

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