A new pair of reports suggest that changes are headed to Apple's next iPhone in the form of a bigger screen and a considerably faster data connection.
The first comes from Japanese outlet PC Watch, (via Mac blog Macotakara), which reported on a slide shown by carrier China Unicom at this week's Macworld Asia, suggesting that the iPhone 5 will add support for HSPA+ technology. HSPA+ is the standard that has a theoretical download speed of 21Mbps, up from the 7.2Mbps HSDPA/HSUPA 3G hardware that ships in the iPhone 4. In the United States, both AT&T and T-Mobile support HSPA+ on their networks.
This is not the first mention of faster networking technology making it into Apple's next iPhone, but it's of special interest, given that the slide came from a carrier. An analyst note from Jefferies in May suggested that Apple's next iPhone would be a modest update but that it would be getting a speed boost in processing power and with support for HSPA+. A report last month also suggested that Apple was in the process of carrier-testing devices with support for LTE, the high-speed technology used by Verizon Wireless in the U.S.
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Joining the high-speed data rumors is a report from CNET France today (Google translation) suggesting that the next iPhone will sport a larger screen than that of the current iPhone 4 model. The CNET News sister publication says it's heard that the device will use a qHD screen that comes in 960x540 pixels and measures about 4.2 to 4.3 inches diagonally. That's compared to the iPhone 4's 3.5-inch display that runs at a higher 960x640 pixels.
That size difference raises two questions, the first being if Apple would fracture the screen resolution standard it's set with previous iPhone models. The first three iPhones had the exact same resolution, with the iPhone 4 jumping to a resolution that simply doubled the pixels within the same amount of space. Shaving off 100 pixels from the horizontal width of the screen could mean that developers would have to make tweaks to their apps in order to get them to fit on the narrower view. Also, having a lower resolution in a larger amount of space would throw off the promise of a Retina Display--Apple's name for a screen on which you can't see the pixels when holding it more than a foot away.
Despite these caveats, the larger-screen rumor has been kicking around for months, dating back to February, including a snapshot out of China depicting the front screen of what looked like an iPhone with a larger and wider display. Just weeks before, component industry tracker DigiTimes claimed that Apple was eyeing bigger screens, in part to better compete with Android devices. Then, in March, purported "mold engineering" drawings cropped up, depicting such a device that looked like an iPhone 4, but with a noticeably larger screen. More recently, it's been a slew of cases that have hit store shelves designed for a slightly larger, but thinner iPhone, from what was allegedly a prototype device that leaked from a Foxconn manufacturing facility.
It goes without saying that all the mystery into what the next iPhone will look like, inside and out, are certain to be unveiled at the "Let's talk iPhone" event Apple's holding next week.