On Apple’s iPad 5, iPhone 5S, and Plastic iPhone
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to inspect a supposedly accurate—and seriously intriguing—physical model of the completely redesigned fifth-generation iPad. I briefly mentioned it on Twitter, but didn’t write a full article because some key details were ambiguous at that point, including how “final” the model was, and the release date. We’ve heard “late March” repeatedly from various sources, but unlike the iPad 2 and third-generation iPad, the casings for which were basically complete as of the Januaries before they launched, the iPad 5 didn’t seem to be finished yet.
What does it look like? Well, it’s a lot smaller than one would guess was possible: in portrait orientation, picture a 9.7” screen with virtually no left or right bezels, and only enough space above and below the screen to accommodate the mandatory camera and Home Button elements. Beyond that, it’s noticeably thinner, as well, which is to say the the fifth-generation iPad will be smaller in every dimension than its predecessors. As it will have the same chamfered edges and curves, calling it a “stretched iPad mini” is very close to entirely accurate, with the rendering below looking pretty close to what I’ve seen. The critical question: “how will Apple accomplish this?”
Rendered image credit: Martin Hajek
The changes are so considerable that a new screen technology, such as IGZO, seems like a given. Going Retina for the third-generation iPad forced Apple to make that tablet a little thicker than the iPad 2, in part to seriously beef up the battery. Very little changed for the fourth-generation iPad. By contrast, this iPad 5 design is so much smaller that a full internal redesign—complete with a smaller, less power-hungry sequel to the A6X—can be safely assumed. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the new iPad remain roughly on par with the fourth-generation model in processing capabilities, with the improved screen, dramatically lower size, and reduced weight becoming the key selling points.
One piece of bad news: earlier this month, we heard that Apple was targeting the iPad 5 for March—something that seemed a little hard to swallow. As of now, we’re hearing October, give or take a couple of weeks. This part is pure speculation, but we’re guessing that the screens and processors are going to be hard to come by for a while. If IGZO is in fact the screen technology inside the new iPad, Apple will be relying heavily on Japan’s Sharp, which has been struggling for some time with both financial and production constraints. We’d bet that stabilizing Sharp is a key concern for Apple going forward.
Our sources have also shared a few small new details on the upcoming iPhone lineup. The iPhone 5S will apparently look very much like the iPhone 5, but with a larger rear flash, and is indeed coming this year. Also planned for a 2013 release is Apple’s “low-cost” plastic-bodied iPhone, which is being developed with China Mobile in mind: the government-owned telecom company has over 700 million subscribers. One of our sources claims that Apple’s iPhone prices remain too high for most mainland Chinese customers—the iPhone 5 hardware alone starts at $849 there, versus the iPhone 4 at $500, in a country where the average annual salary is around $3,000 per person. The source has said that mainland Chinese iPhone 5 sales are already tapering off as a result of the pricing, which is higher than in Hong Kong. A budget iPhone model would help sales in populous but underdeveloped countries to grow.
Addressing the so-called “iPhone Math”—hinted by one source as a mistranslation of “iPhone +”—we’ve been told that this is another new model and in early prototyping stages, certainly not expected in 2013. It supposedly has a 4.7” screen, at least for the time being. It might never make it to market, and plenty could change before it does. Consider it Apple’s “just in case / Plan B” hedge against ever-growing Android phone screen sizes.
If you have a comment, news tip, advertising inquiry, or coverage request, a question about iPods or accessories, or if you sell or market products, read iLounge's Comments + Questions policies before posting, and fully identify yourself if you do. We will delete comments containing advertising, astroturfing, trolling, personal attacks, offensive language, or other objectionable content, then ban and/or publicly identify violators. Wondering why we're talking about something other than iPods? Check the Archives: Backstage has been here and kicking it since 2004.
- Apple releases iOS 9.3 beta 3, tvOS 9.2 beta 3, watchOS 2.2 beta 3 to developers
- Indie game ‘The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth’ rejected by Apple over violence toward children
- Apple likely to receive approval to open retail stores in India
- Study finds Apple Watch is best fitness tracker for privacy, security
- Conflicting reports over pink color to be featured in iPhone 5se
- Report: Some third-party repairs ‘bricking’ iPhones with iOS 9
- Report: Apple to bid on NFL Thursday Night Football streaming rights
- Apple to begin taking broken iPhones for trade-in, offer in-store screen protector installation
- Apple ordered to pay $625M to VirnetX in patent case
- Apple Pay reaches 2 million retail locations
- Gumdrop Cases DropTech Case for iPad Pro
- Edifier MP700 Rave Portable Bluetooth Speaker
- Just Mobile HoverDock for Apple Watch + HoverDock for iPhone
- VRS Design Dandy Layered Case for iPad Pro
- Just Mobile TENC for iPad Pro
- Native Union DOCK Lightning
- Native Union DOCK for Apple Watch
- Hitcase Pro+ Action Pack and Snap for iPhone 6/6s
- Urban Armor Gear Trooper for iPhone 6/6s
- NEBO CaseBrite for iPhone 6 Plus/6s Plus
- Inside the betas: What’s new in iOS 9.3 and tvOS 9.2 (Updated)
- Life with HomeKit: Our experiences with Apple’s home automation system
- Under the Radar: 10 ‘hidden’ details about the new Apple TV
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 9.0
- Under the Radar: A closer look at smaller iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus changes
- A First Look at iOS 9’s Transit in Apple Maps (Updated for watchOS 2)
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iTunes 12.2
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 8.4 + Apple Music
- CE Week 2015: IK Multimedia, Monowear’s Apple Watch bands + More
- Live From CE Week 2015: Brand New iPad, iPhone + Mac Accessories!