Apple’s ‘iPhone 5’: Rumor roundup for the new iPhone

September is set to be a big month for consumer tech, especially with Apple’s expected Sept. 12 announcement of the iPhone. To ease you into a short work week, here’s a short primer on the rumors surrounding what Apple may have up its sleeve, and what it may be up against.

Release date: The big news event is expected on Sept. 12, but the iPhone is widely expected to hit store shelves on Sept. 21, as first reported by the blog iMore.

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Last week, rumors popped up, however, that the Japanese company Sharp has fallen behind its production schedule of Apple screens. According to a report from Reuters, a source “familiar with Sharp’s production operations” said that there’s been some talk about Apple using financial incentives to get the manufacturer’s production yields back on track in order to avoid iPhone delays.

Screen: Sharp is one of the suppliers tapped to produce Apple screens, which are said to be one of the main features changing in this generation of the iPhone.

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Apple may use a thinner screen that will allow the next smartphone to be even lighter than the current model.

The screen, of course, is also supposed to be larger — most reports put the size at a 4-inch diagonal, which is significantly more screen real estate than the 3.5-inch screen that currently graces the company’s phone.

NFC? Maybe not: After a supposed picture of the front of Apple’s next iPhone emerged on a Chinese tech site, there was a renewed discussion of whether or not Apple would include near-field communications technology in the next generation of its phone. But the rumor mill took a turn, thanks to some strong analysis from AnandTech and a one-word dismissal from The Loop’s well-sourced Jim Dalrymple.

According to Brian Klug and Anand Lal Shimpi of AnandTech, the materials picture in the “leak” itself indicate that a NFC reader wouldn’t work well in that spot at all. The metal plate in the iPhone, they said, would block signals that the NFC reader needs, and there simply isn’t a reasonable place to put it anywhere else on the phone.

“[Given] the very little space at top and bottom dedicated to those glass RF windows, you can almost entirely rule it out,” the two wrote in a blog post. “It shouldn't need saying, but having a huge ground plane (the unibody metal back case) in the way of your NFC antenna will seriously degrade performance, thus only the top or bottom windows are logical places to put it.”

But placing the chip near the top or bottom windows would make the chip awkward to use, Klug and Shimpi said, noting that would not be the “Apple-like level of polish” that one would expect from the company. Phones that currently have the chips, they noted, tend to place them in the middle of the phone, in order to make it as easy as possible to scan.

Adding strength to strength, the AnandTech piece got a bigger credibility bump when Dalrymple — who has a very good track record on Apple — linked to the piece and gave his customary one-word confirmation: “Yep.”

Apple has plenty of reasons to go into mobile payments, but the AnandTech piece also pointed out that the company uses alternate technologies such as Bluetooth low-energy, which already is being used in devices including sports and fitness trackers, and even the trusty QR code.

Dock Connector: There’s been a persistent rumor that Apple will also change the size of its dock connector, which has been the same on Apple iPods, iPhones, iPads and other devices for years. As we noted in February, changing the size of the dock connector could require a rethink of an entire industry built around making Apple accessories.

In August, the site iLounge posted images from a third-party accessory maker that advertised a converter for the “new Apple connector,” which connects with fewer pins. Shrinking the size of the dock connector would, of course, expand the amount of room inside the iPhone — which would make it lighter or leave room for other components to expand.

Earbuds: Rumors popped up over the weekend that Apple would also release redesigned earbuds, possibly alongside the next generation of the iPhone. Apple’s white earbuds have also been a standard since the iPod, though it has tweaked the design of its earbuds to include features such as a microphone and to be compatible with the iPhone.

According to MacRumors, a Vietnamese site that has obtained prototype Apple goods in the past posted video of radically redesigned earbuds reportedly being made in a Vietnamese plant owned by Foxconn. The earbuds pictured in the Vietnamese site’s video look nothing like Apple’s round headphones or even like its in-ear headphones. The earphones are made of molded plastic and have a slim profile with an almost funnel-like design leading to the speakers.

The earphones do not appear to have a microphone or music controls built in, however, which the Verge noted casts some doubt on whether or not this model of earphones will be included with the next iPhone. With the introduction of Siri, voice control certainly seems to be a central selling point for the iPhone, so it seems unlikely that new iPhone earphones, at least, would leave out a microphone.

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