iPhone 5: Is a Redesign in the Cards?

Kyle Wiens of iFixit shares insights and predictions about the next-generation iPhone expected to launch this fall.

Mon, July 11, 2011

CIO — It's a pretty good bet that the next-generation iPhone 5 is coming this fall. The latest Apple (AAPL) rumor has Apple ordering 15 million new iPhones from Taiwan-based Pegatron.

"The cell phone market is moving so fast, I don't think Apple can wait," says Kyle Wiens of iFixit, a Web site that provides free repair manuals and advice forums.

Kyle Wiens of iFixit

Apple already showed the world at its WWDC earlier this year what's in the new iOS 5, but the iPhone 5 hardware is anyone's guess. CIO.com spoke with Wiens to get his take on what the iPhone 5 might look like.

Slideshow: Apple iPhoneys: The iPhone 5 Edition

Wiens and his Apple-savvy iFixit engineers have been taking apart Macs, iPhones, iPods and iPads and peeking inside before practically anyone else. In fact, iFixit was first to report on Apple's screwy behavior to put tamper-resistant "Pentalobular" screws into its products that stymie do-it-yourselfers from making repairs.

Wiens, a featured speaker at this year's Macworld 2011 in San Francisco, accurately predicted that the pre-launched iPad 2 would have more RAM (512MB, to be exact) and a multi-core chip but not higher resolution. Shortly after the iPad 2 hit the market, Wiens served up an iPad 2 teardown.

What will the iPhone 5 look like?

Wiens: I think people like the form factor of the iPhone 3GS better than the iPhone 4. The iPhone 4 is kind of a harsh, angular design. The back glass panel breaks a lot and is thicker than other materials. I've heard that the iPhone 4 design has fallen out of favor with Apple execs.

My guess is that Apple will get rid of the back glass and go back to plastic or carbon fiber.

With the front screen, newer screens are a little bit thinner. Apple will be able to shave maybe a tenth of a millimeter and go closer to the edge of the phone. The iPhone 5 might have a slightly larger display, slightly larger pixels. Or maybe Apple will just shrink the width of the phone and keep the display size the same.

Do you think the relatively high breakage rate of the troublesome iPhone 4 back glass factors into a potential design change?

Wiens: We've seen Apple make changes to save their service cost in the past. The original iPhone was very difficult to service, and subsequent phones have been much easier. Apple geniuses are fixing hundreds of thousands of phones a year—and that's expensive. The iPhone 4 is a brittle design.

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