iPhone 5: Rumors vs. Hardware Leaks

Even before the iPhone 5 is released, the many iPhone 5 leaks reveal quite a bit about it. Or do they?
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It's widely expected that Apple will debut the iPhone 5 -- or "the new iPhone" or "sixth-generation iPhone" or whatever you want to call it -- at an event next month. But after a spate of hardware leaks, is there any point in CEO Tim Cook making a big deal of the unveiling?

Officially, we have little idea as to what the new iPhone will look like or what new features it will have. In fact, we have nothing but ideas, since Apple has draped the entire project in its signature close of secrecy.

Ask Apple anything about the iPhone 5 and all you get is a stern "Apple doesn't comment on rumor, speculation and unannounced products." But an absence of official information from Apple doesn't mean that we have nothing to go on.

Talk is cheap, and it's easy for people to claim they have "exclusive" information direct from "sources" deep in Apple. Personally, I much prefer to put my faith -- and stock -- in physical hardware. And while a Cupertino engineer has yet to carelessly leave a complete iPhone 5 in a bar, there have been no end of leaks of purported iPhone 5 parts.

The first of these leaks came in early June from Hong Kong-based parts form ETradeSupply that posted a video to YouTube of what they claimed was the metal chassis of an iPhone 5.

The video showed an iPhone chassis that is dramatically different from what we are used to with the iPhone 4 and 4S. To begin with, it replaces the rear glass panel -- an unnecessary piece of glass that has been the source of a lot of annoyance and expense to clumsy users -- with a unibody metal construction.

The chassis also showed a number of other critical changes. While the width remained unchanged, the new chassis is thinner than that of the current iPhone but at the same time longer. It’s long enough for Apple to make the long-rumored switch to a 4-inch screen, leaving behind the 3.5-inch screen that has so far adorned every iPhone made.

The leaked chassis also suggested that Apple had increased the size of the speaker grill on the underside of the iPhone and also moved the headphone jack from the top of the device to the underside, allegedly to make the device more rainproof.

But the most startling change present on the chassis was a smaller hole for the dock connector. Currently Apple makes use of a 30-pin dock connector for the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and some other iPod devices. But this smaller hole seems to indicate that Apple has finally decided to abandon this connector -- with its myriad of pins that are there purely for legacy support -- in favor of a smaller and more modern dock connector.

Is this chassis a real component? We don't know for sure but the overall fit and finish, along with the detailed machining, suggests that if this isn't a genuine part, it's a very elaborate fake.

My biggest reservation about calling this part genuine is that it surfaced long-rumored switch to a 4-inch screen leaked online. Does Apple still use blueprints? I don't know, but they seem awfully "old school" for a flagship consumer electronics company.

Would anyone go to the bother of faking a complete iPhone chassis? You bet they would! Case manufacturers would love to get a sneak preview of what the next iPhone is going to look like. They’d part with a small fortune for information that would give them an advantage over the competition.

The more convincing that information seemed, the more it would be worth.

So yes, there's certainly a motive for people to create elaborate fakes -- motives that go way beyond yanking the chain of the tech media!

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Tags: mobile, iPhone 5, Apple iPhone

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