Can you hear it? The iPhone buzz is starting to rise, with rumors of a new iPhone and perhaps new iOS coming out this summer. At least that’s what the Wall Street Journal, which has a strong track record of getting the real skinny on what’s happening in Cupertino, is reporting.
The iPhone has had a good start to the new year, too. A comScore report on smartphone subscriber market share showed the iPhone leading and growing from 35 percent in November last year to 38.9 percent in February 2013. That’s quite a bit of growth compared to rivals. In comparison, Samsung holds second place with a slight uptick in growth, from 20.3 percent to 21.3 percent (albeit, this is before the Galaxy S4 launch).
Let’s face it, no one knows what the new iPhone will look like or what it will be able to do, but this hasn’t stopped analysts and the press from speculating. Here are five things we’re hearing out there:
1. Multiple Screens
Will the iPhone be available in multiple screen sizes? An analyst with Topeka Capital Markets thinks so, according to CNET. “We believe Apple is coming around to the fact that one size per iPhone release does not work for everyone, and offering consumers an option has the potential to expand the company’s market share,” Topeka analyst Brian White said in an investors note.
Other industry watchers are thinking an iPhone 5S flip phone. That’s right, they think Apple will go backward and bring back the flip phone that looks a lot like the Star Trek Communicator.
2. Cheap iPhone
Rumors of a cheap iPhone have been swirling for years, but with the passing of Steve Jobs—he insisted on the highest quality—there’s a good chance a low-end iPhone will now hit the market. CEO Tim Cook is a more traditional business executive than his predecessor and will likely go the route that the market dictates. This means a cheap iPhone will counter the costs of Android phones, as well as push into second-tier markets. It’s also possible a cheap iPhone could be available in addition to a super-charged iPhone 5S release.
3. Super-Charged iPhone
We’re talking an iPhone 5S with 128GB just like a version of the iPad 4, with higher resolution using Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide material, and built-in fingerprint scanner and near-field communications support. The latter will help Apple compete with Google Wallet, according to Expert Reviews.
4. Form Factor—Nothing to See Here
Eventually, the smartphone form factor will be replaced, perhaps as Google glasses or an iWatch. But that probably won’t happen with the iPhone 5S. If history is any indicator, the iPhone 5S will look a lot like the iPhone 5. Apple usually makes changes to the form factor in the iPhone model prior to the “S” series.
5. iOS 7, Oh Boy!
The biggest change to the iPhone will come in the software. Apple’s ground-breaking iOS has grown long in the tooth. Rivals such as Samsung, Microsoft and even BlackBerry have come out with exciting new operating systems.
Nearly everyone expects iOS 7 to be a significant overhaul and a signature moment for the Cook-led Apple era. Moreover, Apple blogger John Gruber says he’s heard rumors that Apple is pulling OS X engineers to work on iOS 7 because it’s behind schedule.
So what’s it going to look like? Apple must walk a fine line, one that brings innovation yet doesn’t dramatically change the interface and put off its legions of faithful Apple customers. Design chief Jony Ive will likely push for a flatter, cleaner, minimalist design without the skeuomorphic elements—the stuff that tries to replicate a real-world feeling, like wood on the iBook shelves.
Macworld in the UK is also hoping for advanced gestures, such as unlocking an iPhone with gesture rather than punching in a code, face recognition, multiple user accounts on one device, advanced parental controls, multi-user FaceTime, customized autocorrect, and battery saving features when battery life drops to a low level.
Of course it’s anyone’s guess what features iOS 7 will end up having. Here’s a video vision from Federico Bianco:
Tom Kaneshige has been covering business and technology in Silicon Valley for two decades. As senior online writer at CIO.com, Tom covers Silicon Valley culture, BYOD and consumer tech in the enterprise.