Rumor roundup scorecard: iPhone 4S edition

Now that the dust has settled and we know the real details of the iPhone 4S, we look back at some of the claims that were made in the months leading up to the event to see what the rumor mill got right--and what it didn't.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
10 min read

In case you missed it, Apple this morning announced the iPhone 4S a follow-up to the iPhone 4, along with the release dates for iOS 5 and iCloud. You can re-watch the whole event right here.

Below are some of the big claims that circulated leading up to the event, and how they stacked up against today's actual news:

Voice assistant

A phone you can talk to that understands what you're saying? At a basic level, Apple's had that since the first version of Voice Control was introduced with the iPhone 3GS. The only problem is that it's been pretty limited, working only to make phone calls to people in a contact list and begin playing a song or playlist.

Reports from TechCrunch earlier this year claimed Apple was working on a partnership with Nuance that would build far more advanced voice technologies into iOS 5, and presumably some extras for the next iPhone. Yet when iOS 5 debuted in June, the voice features were nowhere to be found.

More recently, reports from 9to5Mac have posted screenshots of a microphone icon sitting in the iOS software keyboard, while suggesting that the feature will let users launch apps and navigate around the phone with their voice.

Outcome: True
Apple announced Siri, named after the voice technology company Apple acquired last year. The feature lets users speak commands to their phones and see the results without leaving whatever app they're on. You can read more about it here.

Some of the options found within Siri.
Some of the options found within Siri. CNET Staff

Bigger screen

Apple's iPhone has sported a 3.5-inch display since its inception. The only big thing to change about it came with the iPhone 4 and its Retina Display, which quadrupled the number of pixels that fit in that space.

But a 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. There was also a report in June by blog This Is My Next claiming it had seen device with a 3.7-inch display, complete with a mockup of said device.

More recently, a report by our own sister site CNET France said it heard the device would 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. Finally, there was the slew of cases that hit store shelves designed for a slightly larger, but thinner iPhone, based on what was allegedly a prototype device that leaked from a Foxconn manufacturing facility.

Outcome: Not even close
The iPhone 4S has the same display Apple shipped with the iPhone 4, and its form factor is identical.

New home button

Would Apple dare change up its simple, perfectly circular home button that ships on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad for something new? That was suggested by an alleged prototype case design that came from Chinese accessory makers in July, depicting a considerably larger, ovular home button. Adding to that was a purported iPhone 5 screen protector suggesting both the aforementioned larger screen and a larger space for a bigger home button.

There was also the possibility of Apple ditching the moving part of the home button in favor of a capacitive button. That can be attributed to a supposed fifth-generation iPod Touch prototype that popped up sporting 128GB of storage and a capacitive home button.

Outcome: Negatory
The home button remains identical to previous models of the iPhone and other iOS devices like the iPod Touch and iPad.

The new iPhone 4S comes in black and white (and both models retain the home button at the bottom of the device).
The new iPhone 4S comes in black and white (both models retain the home button at the bottom of the device). Apple

8-megapixel camera

Apple has a habit of steadily improving the built-in camera in the iPhone--big jumps in the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 included adding video, then HD recording. The expectation for Apple's next iPhone was the same, including a quote from Sony CEO Howard Stringer, who in April told The Wall Street Journal that the tsunami that hit Japan earlier this year had delayed image sensors that were to be sent to Apple, a curious mention given Apple's use of OmniVision sensors in the iPhone 4.

Then in June, a Bloomberg report reiterated the 8-megapixel claim.

Last month one of the most interesting pieces of the puzzle came together when a photo of a plate of sushi snapped by an Apple employee from the company's campus. Eagle eyes at Pocketnow noticed the shot was considerably larger than the shots that come out of the iPhone 4, yet that's what Flickr identified the camera as. After being discovered, the photo was quickly set to private.

Outcome: True
The 8-megapixel camera in the iPhone 4S leapfrogs the 5-megapixel sensor on the iPhone 4. Apple also says that the new version adds things like better light sensitivity, better macro focusing, and sharper images.

Phil Schiller shows off the macro focusing capabilities of the iPhone 4S' camera.
Squirrel! Phil Schiller shows off the macro focusing capabilities of the iPhone 4S' camera. Kent German/CNET

64GB model

In March, China-focused technology blog M.I.C. Gadget said it had secured an "engineered prototype" of the iPhone 4 with 64GB of storage on board. There was also what appeared to be an early development version of the white iPhone 4, sporting 64GB of storage and what looked like a prerelease version of iOS 4. That device popped up on Vietnamese site Tinhte this past April; that's the same outlet that got ahold of the iPhone 4 ahead of its official announcement.

More recently it's been a rumor from 9to5mac this past week, and a 64GB "iPhone 4S" model that popped up on Vodafone's German site yesterday.

Outcome: True
For $399, buyers can get a super-sized iPhone 4S with 64GB of storage.

Phil Schiller shows off the latest lineup of iPhones with their respective prices. Kent German/CNET

A5 processor

A5 chip

A no-brainer of sorts, the A5 processor made its debut with the iPad 2 earlier this year. Expectations were high that the dual-core processor would make it into the newer phone model given that the same thing happened with the iPhone 4 getting the A4 processor following its arrival on the first-generation iPad.

Rumor-wise, that included a DigiTimes report in February, suggesting that Apple was outsourcing A5 chip production and that the outlet expected it to get used in the iPhone 5. In March, a China Times report claimed to have knowledge of an iPhone prototype sporting an A5 processor. And that same month, Chronic Dev group member Chronic found mention of the A5 processor's code name within the code of iOS 4.3.

One of the most interesting reports, though, was a 9to5mac report claiming Apple had given some prominent game developers prototype versions of the iPhone packing the A5 to test their applications. These units were said to be otherwise identical to the current version of the iPhone 4, except for the faster internals.

Outcome: Correct
The iPhone 4S sports an A5 processor that Apple says is twice as fast as the one that ships in the iPhone 4, as well as increasing graphics processing by seven times. The A5 also includes image-processing technology Apple says speeds up the time it takes to take photos as well as load up the camera app.


A report by 9to5Mac last week claimed among other things that Apple's next iPhone would be sporting 1GB of RAM, double what can be found in the iPhone 4. Apple doesn't really promote RAM as a selling point, but that hasn't stopped the company from increasing it over the years.

Outcome: Don't know yet.
As usual, Apple isn't listing the amount of RAM inside the iPhone 4S. We've asked about it though. Worst comes to worst, we've got to wait a week for the inevitable gadget teardown.

Near-field communication (NFC)

NFC allows data transfer between two devices at short distances (about 4 inches). For phones this could allow things like mobile payments, as well as transferring data between devices without the use of a cellular or nearby Wi-Fi network in a similar fashion to Bluetooth.

The rumor that Apple intended to bring it to the next iPhone picked up considerable momentum earlier this year, then waned, making it a generally unlikely candidate to make it into this year's model. Dueling reports in a single week in March claimed that Apple both was and was not planning to bring it to the next iPhone. Those came on top of a number of NFC-related patent applications the company filed last year, and the fact that it hired Benjamin Vigier, who has a background with NFC technology.

Adding to all that were two reports from Cult of Mac in November, then March suggesting Apple was experimenting with NFC technology for remote computing, letting users put their phones near their computer to share information between the two devices. The later report added that Apple was testing said technology in "several prototype iPhones."

Outcome: Bzzz. Wrong.
While there is new wireless technology in the antenna, none are for NFC.

Metal back


Remember this rumor? Citing an anonymous source from Foxconn, a 9to5Mac report in March said that Apple was cooking up a model with a flat metal back. Months later, while saying that the next iPhone would sport a "smaller than 4-inch panel," DigiTimes also claimed the back of the device would "be changed to a metal chassis instead of reinforced glass."

Outcome: Nope
Just the glass back, same as the one currently found on the iPhone 4.

Silent toggle on the other side

In conjunction with the case designs coming out of China in July, one thing they shared in common was a spot for the hold switch on the right side of the device, instead of the left where Apple's had it since the first iPhone. A simple change perhaps, but a bit peculiar.

Outcome: Nope. Same side as it's always been.

iPhone on Sprint

Sprint logo

One of the more substantial reports out there, a story from The Wall Street Journal in August said that Sprint would be joining Verizon Wireless and AT&T in selling the next iPhone in mid-October. Adding to that earlier this week, the outlet said Sprint had inked a deal with Apple to spend more than $20 billion on about 30 million iPhones over the next four years.

Outcome: True
With very little fanfare, Apple said that Sprint is, in fact, carrying the iPhone 4S.

No iPhone on T-Mobile

Despite an upbeat analyst report from Piper Jaffray in July suggesting that Apple's device would be able to run on more networks, including Sprint and T-Mobile in the U.S., as well as a report from blog MacTrast in late August, a company official put the kibosh on those hopes just a month later. T-Mobile Chief Marketing Officer Cole Brodman posted a letter to customers on a company blog in late September saying T-Mobile would love to carry the iPhone, but that it was focusing on Android in the meantime. That came just days after a purportedly leaked company blog post detailing notes from a company meeting where Brodman said "we are not going to get the iPhone 5 this year."

Outcome: Correct, you still can't get the iPhone on T-Mobile.

Next iPhone a "world phone"

An iPhone that works with both GSM and CDMA networks? Sounds like a neat trick, and something that would considerably simplify Apple's hardware lineup. A TechCrunch report from just about a year ago said Apple was working on such a thing for this year's iPhone refresh. Then the Verizon version of the iPhone appeared in February with this capability. However, it was not activated.

Another report by TechCrunch this past August claimed once again that a dual-mode phone was in the works, citing an unidentified app developer's registration logs, which showed both mobile network codes from the same device. Adding to that, Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said in April that Apple's next iPhone would be a "world phone."

Outcome: True
The iPhone 4S can work on both GSM and CDMA networks, letting CDMA users roam on GSM networks and vice versa. It also simplifies the versions Apple needs to carry.

Phil Schiller talks about the iPhone 4S' dual GSM and CDMA capabilities.
Phil Schiller talks about the iPhone 4S' dual GSM and CDMA capabilities. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Speedier cellular technology

HSPA+, LTE, should we add another acronym in there for ya? The bottom line is that both technologies bring speedier cellular data to phones. A number of phones have added these newer networking protocols in recent models, fueling the expectation that Apple will bring a similar speed boost to its next iPhone.

In terms of rumors, that's included in a report from Boy Genius Report in August, saying that Apple's carrier partners were testing 4G LTE iPhones based on logs the blog obtained. In September, Bloomberg then reported that China Mobile and Apple had been in "positive" talks to bring a TD-LTE phone to the carrier's TD-SCDMA network.

As for HSPA+, 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), that rumor's been easier to swallow. Carrier China Unicom suggested Apple was adding the technology to its next iPhone in a slide that surfaced during last week's Macworld Asia conference, as did an analyst note from Jefferies & Company in May and numerous analyst opinions CNET contributor Brooke Crothers wrangled up ahead of the iPhone 4S' release.

Outcome: True
The iPhone 4S sports download speeds of 14.4 megabits per second and upload speeds of 5.8 megabits a second. That's a big jump from what ships on the iPhone 4, though it's not quite 4G, a topic Apple effectively dismissed during today's presentation.

Death of the iPod Classic and Shuffle

Apple iPod Touch 4G
Apple iPod Touch 4G (32GB)

Citing an anonymous source, TUAW last week said that Apple "may" discontinue its iPod Classic and iPod Shuffle, moving to an all-touch-screen lineup.

To make this rumor more interesting, Apple quietly removed iPod click-wheel games from the iTunes store last week, as spotted by AppleInsider.

Outcome: Nope
An Apple rep told CNET that both the iPod Classic and the iPod Shuffle live on, and will continue to be sold by the company.

A white iPod Touch

Both a Macrumors report in September and an analyst report from July claimed Apple was at work on an iPod Touch. Not such a far-fetched rumor given the dual-color options on the iPhone 4 and iPad.

Outcome: Yep
But if you were looking for some of the same goodies the iPhone 4S is getting, you're out of luck. The iPod Touch's annual update consisted of a price cut, iOS 5, and a new coat of paint with the white models.

Any we missed? Leave them in the comments.