Is this the iPhone 5? Read our analysis

A blurry photo has emerged that may show an Apple employee using the iPhone 5. But is it the real deal? Join us as we stroke our beards in contemplation.

Apple blog 9to5Mac has found a photo of what could be the iPhone 5 being used in the wild.

Snapped in San Francisco, the blurry photo was sent in by a tipster, who spotted someone they reckoned was probably an Apple employee hunched over the mysterious device. The tipster says the person using the phone was covering the Apple logo on the back, seemingly to hide the icon.

It's an almost hilariously small amount to go on, but nevertheless let's break out the magnifying glass and strain our eyeballs -- it's time to analyse.

Design

The first thing we noticed is that the phone looks slim. We'd warrant it's thinner than the iPhone 4 , and the black casing seems to rule out the iPod touch .

Leaked case schematics suggest the next iPhone will feature a curved back, as opposed to the iPhone 4's straight glass rear, so this image could corroborate those leaks. That said, those schematics indicated the camera flash would sit to the side of the lens, but, in this photo, it looks like the flash is positioned just underneath.

Could it be an iPhone 3GS? Possibly one in a case? Perhaps, but this phone does look a smidgen thinner than the 3GS to our eyes, so we're not convinced about that.

The volume buttons and mute switch are intriguing also. It's hard to see whether they're two separate buttons, as on the iPhone 4, or set on a rocker switch, as with previous versions of the iPhone.

Unfortunately, there are no snaps of the front of the phone, which would probably have sealed the deal -- the iPhone 5 is tipped to have a much wider display, and possibly a bigger home button too .

We know Apple tests its products in the field, although we'd have thought that, after last year's iPhone 4 leak fiasco, Jobs and co would now be extremely careful about allowing prototype devices to be seen in the wild.

The last iPhone 4 was tested in a decoy case to hide its true identity, but, as 9to5Mac notes, this could have been the reason nobody noticed the iPhone 4's catastrophic antenna issues , so it's possible Apple now field tests its devices without cases.

CNET UK team verdict

What does our team of hardened tech hacks think? We've seen our fair share of spy shots, blurry-cam photos and clever fakes in the past, and the feeling in the team is that the photo is too blurry to draw any firm conclusions.

"It could be anything. He could have bought it in China. He could have stuck a shiny Apple sticker on the back," said Nick Hide.

"On the one hand, it seems unlikely that a company with Apple's obsessive dedication to secrecy would let the iPhone 5 out of the building. Then again, Apple has to test it in the field somehow. Ah, screw it -- I'm saying it's real. It's such a terrible shot it could be anything at all anyway," mused editor Jason Jenkins

Andy Hoyle is "willing to believe", while video maestro Drew Stearne said: "Even if it is an iPhone 5 in the wild, it'll be a prototype and there's no guarantee of it being a final model."

And mobile guru Flora Graham? The woman who was born with built-in Bluetooth and who can operate a touchscreen using only her mind? Thus she quoth: "I'm always cynical about leaks but there's something about the way the rumours are coalescing in the same direction that makes this seem plausible. I want to believe!"

What do you think?

We want to hear your opinions, so tell us whether you think this is the real iPhone 5 in the comments section below, or on our Facebook wall.

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Phones
About the author

Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.

 

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