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iPhone5: Worth Waiting For?

Thinking about upgrading to a new iPhone? But you want to know if waiting for the next version is worth it? First, consider the rumors on what features it might have, new design ideas, and maybe most importantly, when pundits think it will be announced.

Design
One thing is certain: this phone will have a new design. Many of the new Android phones sport bigger 4-4.5 inch screens, so Apple is feeling the pressure to increase screen size. Rumors suggest a 4-inch screen — that's .5 inches longer than the current 3.5-inch screen. But the thinking is they will keep the same width (1.94 inches). Basically you'll get another row of icons on the home screen without adding another column of icons.

Apple acquired the rights to use a product from a company called Liquid Metal Technologies in 2010 and many have predicted that the back of the new iPhone will be made from this material. It has superior elastic properties and the hope is that it would be more durable than the current glass back.

Apple has also filed patents involving carbon fiber, which could also provide more strength to the phone's body and an added benefit: color. The

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specific patent Apple filed was for injecting color into the resinous carbon fiber. But many think they've moved away from that thinking and are looking to a metal back.

Rumor site iLounge also predicts a 20% thinner iPhone 5, decreasing from the 9.3mm iPhone 4S to a sleeker 7.4mm. And what will be a painful transition for peripheral makers and those of us who hope to slot all our IOS devices into speakers, chargers, and add-ons: a new dock connector. The new connector is said to be the shape and size of a pill. Much smaller than the current 30-pin connector that has been used in all of Apple's iPhones.

LTE
Another certainty with the iPhone is its inclusion of the super-fast LTE data connections. We saw it in the new iPad, and it is a clear trend in phone iterations for all platforms.

Processor
The new iPad sported the faster A5X processor, some predict an even faster A6 processor with a gig of RAM in the new iPhone. Hard to know which of these will make it into the iPhone, but you can bet it will be a lot snappier than the current iPhone.

Battery
The inclusion of LTE, a faster processor and a bigger screen all mean a greater drain on the battery. So while I think the new iPhone will have a more efficient battery, I think the phone itself will have roughly the same battery life and performance as previous models.

Timing
Every year Apple hosts a developer conference in San Francisco in June. For many years, the company debuted the new version of the iPhone at this conference, but last year they waited until October to announce the iPhone 4S. This year, analysts are betting on October for a new release, primarily because a new version of IOS 6, the iPhone operating system (which is expected to be on the next iPhone), has not yet been released to developers.

But as with all things Apple, you just never know. To stoke the June release rumors, some are seeing cryptic hints of a potential iPhone 5 release in the logo for the WWDC event. The number 5 can be discerned in the pattern of boxes that cover the logo. The smart money is on October, but at this point I'd wait until June 11th to buy a new phone, just in case.

Whack-A-Doodle Predictions
The best part of researching iPhone predictions is seeing the outrageous predictions tech sites come up with. This year's no-way-don't-even-bother predictions are: a glasses-free 3D screen (way too gimmicky for Apple), a holographic keyboard (I've tried them: they stink), and a 4.6-inch iPhone (any company that values usability the way Apple does will know you can't comfortably hold a phone that big).

The one crazy prediction I really love is the holographic projector built into the phone. Pico projectors have been all the rage in years back — pocket sized devices able to project a movie or photos on a blank wall to increase the image size and transcend the small phone screen. Do I think this is a possibility? Not really. But would I love to see Apple take a leap on something new and cool? YES!

Special thanks to all the folks at Bay Street Emeryville for their hospitality.

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