iPhone 5S Likely Evolutionary, Not Revolutionary

Mar 21, 2013 (07:03 AM EDT)

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Apple iPhone 5S: The Hot Rumors
Apple iPhone 5S: The Hot Rumors
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Supply chain checks in Asia point to a third-quarter arrival of Apple's next iPhone. Component suppliers are expected to begin delivering parts in late May, which will then be assembled by Apple's manufacturing partner Foxconn. What's not clear is exactly when during the third quarter the next iPhone will arrive. The iPhone 5 went on sale at the very end of the third quarter in 2012.

The timing of the supply chain ramp-up falls in line with expectations, as Apple introduced the last two new iPhones during the third quarters of both 2011 and 2012.

Beyond the timing, component orders suggest the next iPhone will not be significantly different from the current iPhone 5. This also follows Apple's standard iPhone pattern. The iPhone 5S, as it is expected to be called, will use the same chassis as the iPhone 5. That means it will have the same basic size and weight, and probably the same 4-inch display.

[ Apple's recent 6.1.3 iOS update fixes a screen lock flaw. Read more at Apple Fixes iOS Lock Bypass. ]

The major differences will be found in the processor and the camera, both of which will receive upgrades. The processor is expected to advance from the A6 to the A7, though the clock speed unknown. The camera will have more megapixels, but there's no word on exactly how many.

Bottom line, the iPhone 5S will be an iterative update of the iPhone 5 -- just as the iPhone 4S was an iterative update of the iPhone 4, and the iPhone 3GS was an iterative update of the iPhone 3G.

The iPhone 5S may have a companion, however. Rumors of a lower-cost iPhone continue to come from analysts and suppliers who believe Apple will add a second iPhone to its lineup this year. Speculation suggests such a device will have a plastic shell rather than metal casing, to offset costs. Apple has not commented on any of these reports.

An iterative update to the iPhone 5 calls into question the believability of Apple's Phil Schiller, who recently blasted Android and Samsung. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Schiller berated the fragmentation of the Android ecosystem and said, "Android is often given as a free replacement for a feature phone and the experience isn't as good as an iPhone." That experience, however, has remained largely the same since the iPhone's debut in 2007.

Samsung was also accused of lacking in innovation with the Galaxy S 4, which it launched earlier this month. But where's Apple's innovation? Minor spec bumps to an existing phone can hardly be called innovative. More so than the hardware, significant updates to iOS are sorely needed.

Unfortunately, supply chain checks don't tell us anything about Apple's progress on its mobile operating system.

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