Apple's next iPhone: 7 rumored features [Updated]

Redesigned headphones, a 4-inch screen, and credit card-like capabilities are just a few of the goodies reportedly boasted by the tech giant's next handset

The next iPhone will reportedly have a larger screen, a better battery, and the ability to use your handset as a credit card.
(Image credit: Francis Dean/Corbis)

The next iteration of Apple's best-selling iPhone will, according to reports, make its long-awaited debut on September 12. The iPhone 5 (if it's even called that) is expected to be the most dramatic redesign of the handset since the curtains were pulled off the iPhone 4 in fall 2010. What kind of new features should consumers expect? Here, seven rumored changes:

1. Completely redesigned headphones

The flimsy white earbuds that come bundled with every iPhone are often criticized for their tinny sound and poor durability. But now, the Vietnamese website has published a video (watch it here) of what it claims to be a brand new set of Apple headphones — allegedly obtained from a Foxconn plant in the country. The headphones, which are reportedly more comfortable than the current model, have the appearance of a "horse's head," with a more-streamlined profile and white plastic surrounding the speakers. While we can't vouch for the authenticity of the video, says MacRumors, it's worth noting that this Vietnamese website has a proven track record of obtaining Apple prototypes pre-release.

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2. A new metal body

Apple's next iPhone may be be "housed in Liquidmetal," says Christina Bonnington at Wired, "the commercial name for an alloy of titanium, zirconium, nickel, copper, and other metals." The "amorphous" alloy can be poured into a molding like plastic to produce ultra-thin parts. When it hardens, Liquidmetal retains "high strength, high resistance to wear against scratching and denting, and [has] a good strength-to-weight ratio." Cooled, it looks "smooth like liquid," and may bestow the next iPhone "its special swagger." Eh, let's not get too excited, says Adrian Kingsley-Hughes at ZDNet. While Liquidmetal is "incredibly tough," it's not great for radio frequencies. Remember Antennagate? Well, we might not have to worry, says Ed Oswald at PC World. Some photos indicate an aluminum back like the kind used on MacBooks. This lightweight, two-tone metal appears to cover 80 percent of the handset's backside, making the shatter-prone iPhone "a little less breakable."

3. A larger screen

The next iPhone may feature a much larger display — possibly 4.6 inches versus its current 3.5-inch set-up — and Apple has already started placing orders to its suppliers, reports Reuters. While that sounds nice, making "a 4.6-inch display would mean that the size of the iPhone itself would be much larger than it currently is," says Jordan Crook at TechCrunch. And that doesn't seem realistic. More likely: Apple is working on a 4-inch display to "fit on to the iPhone at its current size." Keeping the same iPhone size sounds more like an Apple move, says MG Siegler at Parislemon. "A device that stays the same size, but gets a slightly larger screen for one more row of apps"? Exciting stuff.

4. Less glass

The current iPhone's touchscreen uses two separate layers to achieve its effect: A touch sensor layer and an LCD display layer, which are stacked on top of each other. But Apple is said to be introducing "in-cell touch panels on its next iPhone," says Josh Ong at Apple Insider, which means the two space-hogging layers will be consolidated into one. (The Wall Street Journal corroborates reports of the skinnier glass.) Not only does integrating touch sensors into the LCD make it thinner, but it also "improves the quality of displayed images." Another plus: The iPhone will run with "vastly lower power consumption," says Kyle Wagner at Gizmodo. Fewer lights require less power, which could be a huge boon for the phone's battery life.

5. New connections

Leaked photos make it look like Apple is rearranging its plugs, says Mark Gurman at 9to5 Mac. The earphone jack is being moved to the bottom (an iPhone first), and the device will charge using a much smaller dock connector. Yup, we've "independently verified" that Apple is switching from a 30-pin port to a 19-pin port, says John Biggs at TechCrunch. Three different manufacturers say the port you use to plug your phone into a computer or power outlet will be different than in years past. "This is certainly not going to go over easy," says Chris Burns at Slashgear. Fans collecting third-party accessories for their iPhones and iPads will have to pony up for brand new connections, like HDMI cables and chargers. "Accessory hell, here we come," says PC World's Oswald.

6. 4G LTE... and a better battery

Apple already introduced "the high-speed network on its new iPad," says Dave Smith at the International Business Times, which was probably done as a "practice run" for the iPhone. But the main problem with LTE is that it tends to "ravage battery life." If the company wanted it on the iPhone 4S, it would have had to "increase the phone's thickness" to accomodate a larger battery. Now that Apple appears to be shaving off millimeters here and there, the next iPhone could receive the bigger (and better) battery required to handle faster networks.

7. iWallet

On March 6, Apple won a "major patent" for technology called the "iWallet," says IBT's Smith, which allows users "complete control over their subsidiary financial accounts on their iPhones." The technology uses Near-Field Communication to make credit card transactions by holding the device next to a payment console, effectively turning the iPhone into a digital wallet.

This article — originally published on April 23, 2012 — was last updated on Sept. 4, 2012.

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