In February, Apple released its long-rumored Verizon-compatible iPhone 4, and last week, it unveiled the iPad 2. But notoriously insatiable techies are already clamoring for information about the company's next big thing: The iPhone 5. Naturally, Apple is confessing little about the new device's specs and release date. But tech junkies are hot on the case, vying to uncover clues about what Steve Jobs has up his sleeve. Here's the best they've come up with:

An all-aluminum case?
In January, Endadget forecast that the new iPhone would be a "completely redesigned handset." Taiwan's Economic Daily News seemed to validate that prediction last week when, citing a Chinese supply-chain worker, it reported that Apple was planning to replace the iPhone 4's heavy glass case with a lighter all-aluminum shell. The glass' vulnerability to scratching and cracking apparently led Apple to reconsider.

A bigger screen?
In February, Taiwanese tech newspaper DigiTimes reported that Apple was planning to expand the iPhone's screen size from 3.5 to 4 inches to "compete with the Google Android platform in the 4- to 7-inch smartphone market." Larger smartphone screens have been trending in the past year, and even a modest increase would make watching videos on the iPhone more satisfying, argue theorists.

A new processor chip?
DigiTimes also reported that Apple was outsourcing the manufacture of a newer, faster A5 processor chip to a company called Taiwan Semiconductor, leading analysts to draw happy conclusions about a speedier iPhone 5. Samsung, which had handled processor chip orders in the past, reportedly could not keep up with Apple's demand.  

The potential to swipe the phone like a credit card?
New Android phones are already being equipped with near-field communication (NFC) technology that allows them to initiate and process the phone-based payments that Google is pioneering. ReadWriteWeb reported in January that Apple had hired an NFC expert in 2010, and filed several related patents — hinting that the company might integrate the technology into its next phone.

A June or July release date?
Word is that Apple plans to launch the iPhone 5 sometime in the summer, consistent with its previous four iPhone releases. Kristy Korcz at Geek Sugar is eyeing June 23. Her reasoning: Given that certain upgrade discounts for AT&T customers end on July 23, "I'm guessing that AT&T will give current iPhone customers a full month to trade up before shutting down its upgrade programs for good."