What We Expect
Rumors about the next-generation iPhone have been accelerating in recent weeks, with the majority focusing on the screen size of the device, which is expected to increase. The size of the iPhone’s display grew from 3.5 inches to 4 inches with the iPhone 5, and with the iPhone 6, the screen will grow even larger.
Apple has been experimenting with a wide variety of screen sizes, with the most consistent rumors suggesting a range of 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, bringing the next iPhone in line with competing Android and Windows phones that have all adopted larger displays.
Apple has even acknowledged consumer demand for phones with larger displays in one of its own internal presentations and based on that evidence, it seems clear the company is planning to address the segment of market that desires bigger phones.
Apple is expected to release the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 around September of 2014, while the 5.5-inch version might not be available until the very end of the year or early 2015.
Recent mockups, alleged schematics, and part leaks have suggested the iPhone 6 will be considerably thinner than the current iPhone 5s, possibly between 6mm and 7mm, and closer in thickness to the iPod touch. The existing iPhone 5s has a thickness of 7.6mm, while the iPod touch measures in at 6.1mm.
Part Leaks and Mockups
Possible Part Leaks
As of April 2014, several different alleged iPhone 6 parts have surfaced and Apple is reportedly asking Chinese police to crack down on the leaks. What could possibly be the front panel from the larger iPhone 6 recently appeared on Chinese microblogging site Weibo, displaying a notably thinner bezel along with familiar cutouts for a front-facing camera, ambient light sensor, ear speaker, and home button.
Alleged iPhone 6 batteries have also surfaced, as have manufacturing molds that are said to be for the iPhone 6. The molds appear to depict a device that is approximately 4.7 inches in size when compared to an iPhone 4s, which is in line with the rumored size for the smaller of the two iPhone 6 models.
What may be the backlight panel of the iPhone 6 surfaced in May from Chinese microblogging site Weibo, showing a part that looks like it is indeed from an iPhone. While the veracity of the image cannot be confirmed, it appears to correspond to the 4.7-inch iPhone 6.
Concept Images, Mockups, and Cases
Mockups of the iPhone 6 have been surfacing in droves, with the large majority of the models appearing to be based on leaked iPhone 6 schematics from Japanese magazine MacFan. The mockups all show a thinner chassis, slimmer bezels, and redesigned pill-shaped volume buttons. Many also display a relocated sleep/wake button, which may move to the right side of the device for easier one-handed access, and some versions of the 5.5-inch model show a protruding camera lens due to the thin body of the device.
It is important to note that while there are a variety of cases and mockups available that all point in the same general design direction for the iPhone 6, most of the products have all been based on the same set of leaked design drawings and it remains unclear whether the true design of the iPhone 6 will resemble the flood of mockups that we’ve seen so far.
As time has gone on, physical mockups have gotten more and more detailed. Models surfacing in May showed a dual tone design with rounded corners, an aluminum backing, and antenna inserts in a separate color. A larger camera and a rounded flash are also visible, as is the relocated sleep/wake button. A recent photo showed what could potentially be the three colors of the 4.7-inch iPhone in gold, space gray, and silver, and similar mockups and cases have been compared to phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Google’s Nexus 5.
A Taiwanese Apple blog measured the exact dimensions of one of the mockups, coming up with a height of 138mm, a width of 67mm, and a thickness of 7mm. In comparison, the iPhone 5s is 124mm tall, 58.6mm wide, and 7.6mm thick.
Italian Apple blog Macitynet published several photos of the a detailed physical iPhone 6 mockup compared to the current-generation iPod touch, showing several design similarities between the two devices. Both have curved edges on the rear shell and similar speaker holes along the bottom edge, as well as a body that’s thinner than the existing iPhone. The iPhone 6 mockup is slightly thicker than the iPod touch version, at approximately 7mm vs the 6.1mm.
Using the iPhone 6 dimensions initially published in the March design drawings that have been used for many of the other available mockups, MacRumors created a 3D printed version of the upcoming 4.7-inch iOS device. We compared it to existing iPhones like the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 5, along with the Retina iPad mini.
Designer Martin Hajek has released a set of 3D files that can be purchased for $25 and used to print a 3D 4.7-inch iPhone mockup. The design is similar to many of the previous mockups that have surfaced and can give interested parties an idea of what the alleged iPhone 6 design might feel like in-hand.
Additional 3D plans for printing both the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone were created by MacRumors forum user Arthur Tilly from leaked design drawings and can be downloaded for free from Thingiverse.
In More Detail
Hints of a larger iPhone first surfaced way back in December of 2012, when an analyst noted the existence of iPhone 6 prototypes with a screen size of 4.8 inches. In January 2013, a sketchy rumor suggested Apple would debut a 4.8-inch “iPhone Math” alongside the iPhone 5s, and for short period of time, larger-screened iPhone rumors became attached to the iPhone 5s and a 2013 release, with initial rumors indicating Apple would launch both a smaller and a larger iPhone in 2013.
In February, larger iPhone rumors shifted from the iPhone 5s and solidified around the iPhone 6, which would not launch until 2014. It became clear that Apple’s 2013 focus was a less expensive iPhone to go alongside its standard flagship offering, while 2014 development would center around a bigger display.
As focus shifted towards the lower cost iPhone, rumors of the larger iPhone 6 died down until June 2013, when Reuters reported Apple was testing 4.7 and 5.7 inch displays for two iPhones to be released in 2014. Several reports from The Wall Street Journal confirmed that Apple was indeed looking into larger-screened prototypes for its next-generation iPhone and a November 2013 report from Bloomberg pointed towards two iPhones with display sizes of 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches.
Rumors about the screen size of the next iPhone have varied quite a bit as Apple reportedly tested a variety of different prototypes. All of the reports have indicated a size ranging from 4.7 to 5.7 inches, but have most consistently pointed to the two distinct models first highlighted by Bloomberg: 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches.
It is likely that introducing an iPhone in the range of 4.7 to 5.5 inches will involve increasing the resolution of the display, which will require developers to create new images and assets for their apps. When Apple switched from the iPhone 4’s 960×640 display to the larger 1136×640 display in the iPhone 5, it was the first time Apple had changed the screen size on the phone since its 2007 launch.
Our competitors have made some significant tradeoffs in many of these areas to ship a larger display. We would not ship a larger display iPhone while these tradeoffs exist. Tim Cook – Q2 2013 Earnings Conference Call
Apple has been cautious about introducing new resolutions in order to minimize device fragmentation for app developers, but an increase in pixel count may be the only way for the company to introduce a much larger phone while retaining a Retina-quality display.
The topic of a possible iPhone 6 resolution is one that has been debated for several months, with notable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicting a 1334 x 750 (326 ppi) screen for the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and a 1920 x 1080 (401 ppi) screen for the 5.5-inch version.
Current iPhones use Low Temperature Poly Silicon (LTPS) technology, and Apple is likely to continue using that technology for the iPhone 6.
With the iPad Air and Retina iPad mini, Apple adopted Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide (IGZO) technology in order to create thinner displays that draw less power than seen with the amorphous silicon (a-Si) displays used on previous models, but LTPS already offers better electron mobility than IGZO and thus Apple will almost certainly continue using LTPS in its smaller iOS devices for the time being.
Apple currently uses durable and damage resistant Corning Gorilla Glass for its iPhones, but reports have suggested that the company could switch to sapphire crystal for future displays.
Sapphire crystal, which is currently used for small iPhone elements like the camera lens and the home button of the iPhone 5s, has historically been prohibitively expensive to produce in larger quantities, but Apple has recently partnered with GT Advanced to ramp up sapphire production.
With GT Advanced’s technology and Apple’s investment, it is possible that the company will be able to produce much larger quantities of sapphire crystal at a far lower cost, which could see Apple incorporating it into next generation devices.
In January of 2014, documents filed with the Foreign-Trade Zone Board indicated that Apple was seeking an “aggressive go-live timeline” for the launch of the sapphire plant in order to begin work on a “critical new sub-component” for Apple devices. While it’s unclear what product the sub-component refers to, it could potentially be a sapphire crystal display for the iPhone 6.
Recently revealed documents indicate GT Advanced has purchased 518 sapphire furnace and chamber systems and ordered another 420. With the machines, the Mesa, Arizona sapphire plant has the ability to produce between 100 and 200 million sapphire displays, enough for its entire line of devices. For reference, Apple sold approximately 150 million iPhones in 2013.
Apple has reportedly begun a trial run for an iPhone using a sapphire display cover, with the company ordering 100 of the devices from its assembly partner, Foxconn.
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has suggested that due to production shortages with sapphire screens, only certain high end models (64GB 5.5-inch iPhone 6) may use the new glass to begin with. Supply chain rumors have also suggested that the rising cost of sapphire displays may limit the production of the 5.5-inch iPhone.
Initial rumors indicated the iPhone 6 might have a curved display, but more recent rumors suggest the device will continue to have a flat screen much like the iPhone 5s.
Advancements in LED backlighting may allow Apple to design a thinner, lighter iPhone 6. Apple is reportedly shifting from an 0.6mm LED backlight to a thinner 0.4mm model, giving it a bit of extra room to work with. The increased size of the device (or multiple devices) may also give Apple additional room to spread out components, allowing the company to reduce device thickness even further, and it may be as thin as the iPod touch.
A detailed iPhone 6 mockup compared to the existing iPhone 5s
Schematics for a 4.7 and 5.7-inch iPhone surfaced in March, from Japanese magazine MacFan. Said to depict the “iPhone 6c,” the schematics showed a flat, bezel-free device with several questionable design elements, including a sleep/wake located on the left-top of the device and single LED-flash not in line with the existing pill-shaped True Tone flash.
These design drawings have been used to create multiple iPhone 6 mockups, many of which can be seen below. The mockups all demonstrate iPod touch-style design elements such as curved edges and similar microphone holes.
The iPhone 5s incorporates a 64-bit A7 28-nanometer chip manufactured by Samsung. Apple’s iPhone 6 will reportedly utilize a 20-nanometer A8 chip from TSMC, which will be both smaller and more energy efficient. Samsung will continue to be involved in the production, however, helping to alleviate some of TSMC’s manufacturing load.
The A7 chip marked a 31 percent improvement over the A6 in the iPhone 5, and it is likely that the leap to a 20-nm A8 chip will offer similar increases in performance. The A8 chip is rumored to include both a quad-core 64 bit processor and quad-core graphics and production is said to be underway as of February of 2014. It’s believed, however, the A8 may only contain 1GB of RAM, the same as the A7.
Apple recently extended its licensing agreement with Imagination Technologies, the company that provides Apple with the PowerVR graphics and video hardware used in iOS devices. It is likely that the next-generation iPhone will continue to feature the Series6 graphics used in the current iPhone 5s, though future devices may receive the Series 6XT PowerVR GPUs which offer a 50 percent benchmark performance increase compared to previous generation cores.
A recent rumor has suggested that the iPhone 6 may continue to use the 8-megapixel sensor found in the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c, while adding other camera improvements.
Apple’s iPhone 4s and iPhone 5 also used the same 8-megapixel sensor, but Apple significantly improved camera quality in the iPhone 5s through an increase in pixel size, a larger aperture, a new “True Tone” dual-LED flash and software enhancements, and it is possible the company will follow the same camera improvement strategy in the iPhone 6.
Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) is one way the camera in the iPhone 6 may be improved, and there are reports that will integrate OIS into the iPhone 6 and Apple has been working on striking a deal with InvenSense, a company that manufacturers an OIS gyroscope. Optical Image Stabilization uses motion-tracking in order to compensate for device shakiness, allowing for sharper photos and videos.
Though some sources have pointed towards Optical Image Stabilization for the next iPhone, an April rumor suggested Apple might instead opt for Electronic Image Stabilization in order to incorporate a slimmer camera that will not protrude out of the thin body of the phone. It’s not clear what image stabilization method Apple will use in the iPhone 6, but camera improvements have always a focus for the company with each new iPhone.
Apple’s iPhone 6 is likely to continue to feature the Touch ID fingerprint sensor first found in the iPhone 5s and a recent rumor indicated that TSMC will produce fingerprint sensors for the device, with shipments already in progress.
Other sensors may be bundled into the iPhone 6 to bring it on par with smartphones from competing companies like Samsung. One analyst has indicated that the iPhone 6 could add a pressure, temperature, and humidity sensor, a feature that would bring allow the iPhone to compete with the newly released Galaxy S5, a phone that includes atmospheric sensors and a heart rate monitor.
According to another analyst report, Apple’s next-generation iPhone may also support the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard that first began appearing in Apple products in 2013. 802.11ac, or “Gigabit” Wi-Fi, offers speeds up to three times as fast as existing 802.11n wireless networks, reaching speeds over 1 Gigabit per second. While 802.11ac technology was not quite ready for the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c, Apple Wi-Fi chip supplier Broadcom has recently come out with a new 802.11ac Wi-Fi chip for smartphones.
With the introduction of the iPhone 5c alongside the iPhone 5s, Apple bifurcated its iPhone lineup for the first time. iPhone 6 rumors suggest that Apple will continue with the dual iPhone strategy, producing the iPhone 6 in two different sizes. The Wall Street Journal in January indicated that one iPhone will come with a screen size above 4.5 inches diagonally, while the second will have a display bigger than 5 inches diagonally. Rumors have since solidified around slightly different screen sizes: 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches.
Two lines and two sizes will possibly allow for Apple to continue with its current pricing strategy, offering a full-priced flagship device, a mid-tier lower-cost device, and previous generation devices at an even lower cost. Current rumors suggest that Apple will not continue producing a plastic iPhone, and will instead use metal casings for both phones.
A March report from Reuters suggested that while Apple is indeed working on two iPhones, the larger 5.5-inch version might not be ready for a fall launch due to issues with in-cell display production technology and battery thickness. The 4.7-inch iPhone 6 is said to be entering mass production, with the 5.5-inch version following several months later. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has made similar claims.
Apple’s iOS updates generally happen along iPhone launches, which means the iPhone 6 is likely to ship with iOS 8. Previewed at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June, iOS 8 introduces several new features that improve integration between Apple’s mobile and desktop devices.
Along with tools to allow for seamless transitions of tasks between iPhones, iPads, and Macs, iOS 8 also includes improved Message management tools, interactive notifications, a revamped “QuickType” keyboard, iCloud Drive access, and an all new health and fitness aggregation app, called simply “Health.”
The majority of rumors have pointed towards a September release of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, followed by a launch of the 5.5-inch version towards the end of the year or in early 2015. Apple’s 5.5-inch iPhone is said to be experiencing production issues that have pushed back the company’s target release date for the device,