Apple’s brand new iPhone 5s, the successor to the iPhone 5, will be the company’s flagship smartphone model for at least part of the year. At some point, the iPhone 5s, like the iPhone 5 before it, will be replaced with something newer and something that could certainly be better. That something appears to be an iPhone 6, a device that has already been rumored numerous times for next year.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve started hearing questions from family, friends and colleagues about the iPhone 6 with many wondering how it will stack up against this year’s iPhone. While that question overall is extremely difficult to answer at this point given the scarcity of iPhone 6 rumors, there are pieces that we can put together based on history, and yes, based on rumors.
Apple is a company that follows distinct patterns when it comes to its smartphone lineup. Take this year’s iPhone 5s for example. While it was joined by another iPhone in the iPhone 5c, the phone stuck to Apple’s pattern of ‘S’ iPhone launches, adding some new features while retaining the overall design of its predecessor, the iPhone 5.
While Apple’s iPhone S line has been criticized, it’s clear that the iPhone 5s and its A7 processor, new 8MP camera, TouchID fingerprint reader, Retina Display and sleek design have resonated with consumers. After all, this is a device that only recently came back into stock. Even so, there are plenty of consumers who are on the fence, wondering about next year’s iPhone and how it might compare to this year’s model. We aren’t surprised, this happens every year, particularly around the holidays when consumers are looking at gifts or things to buy for themselves.
Unfortunately, the iPhone 6 isn’t out in the open quite yet, making it hard for consumers to compare the two devices. And while we haven’t gone hands on with the iPhone 6, we can help to set some expectations for next year’s iPhone. Here, we take an early look at what we expect from the battle between the iPhone 5s and the rumored iPhone 6.
One of the first questions that is typically asked about a new smartphone is about its release date. While Android device release dates are fairly difficult to predict, thanks to uneven rumors and curious timing, iPhone launches of the future are a little bit easier to put into focus. Apple tends to use one of two launch windows for its iPhone. The first, the summer.
In the past, Apple introduced the iPhone at WWDC, its annual developer conference, and put the device on sale a few months later. Consumers grew to expect this of Apple, that is, until the company switched to the fall. The iPhone 4s, iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s were all launched in the fall, either in September or October, just ahead of the holidays. Apple is a company of patterns, remember.
Next year’s iPhone 6 is rumored to be coming on either the summer or the fall. Publications can’t decide just yet and usually, we don’t see unofficial confirmation arrive until a few days or weeks before the invites to an event go out. So we probably won’t know for sure until later on in 2014.
That said, we expect the iPhone 6 to land in the summer or fall, as usual. A release in the spring would be too early and given the iPhone 5s sales, likely unnecessary. Apple has two superb iPhones on shelves right now and it’s a company that is known for taking its time. The winter of 2014 and 2015 seems far too late for an iPhone launch. Apple releases an iPhone every year, after all. If the device does arrive this summer, it will be at WWDC, likely in June. If it doesn’t we would expect a separate date around the start of the fall season.
What this means is that we also expect the iPhone 5s to be available, as a flagship, for the first half of 2014. Once the iPhone 6 arrives, we imagine that it will be dropped to free in favor of a $199.99 iPhone 6 and a $99 iPhone 6c. We don’t expect the iPhone 5s to get killed off like the iPhone 5 was, not when it’s the last of its kind.
While the iPhone 5s mimicked the design of the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5 featured a drastically different design from the iPhone 4s, the device released just a year before it. Instead of a combination of plastic and glass, the iPhone 5 arrived with an industrial design featuring an anodized aluminum back and glass. The iPhone 5 was and is slimmer than the iPhone 4s and iPhone 4.
Apple also increased the size of the iPhone display to 4-inches with the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s, though, the company was able to keep the size familiar thanks to an extension of length rather than width. With the iPhone 5s, Apple also added some additions to the iPhone design including a new TouchID fingerprint reader embedded in the home button for added security and convenience, and the addition of a few new colors including the much talked about gold iPhone 5s.
The company tends to stick to a design for two years before moving on to something else. It happened with the iPhone 3GS to iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4s to the iPhone 5. And we expect it to happen again with the iPhone 6.
It’s not clear, at least at the moment, exactly what the iPhone 6 design will entail. We expect it, at the very least, to feature design tweaks from the iPhone 5s design, Apple always tweaks things with the numbered iPhone model. The anodized aluminum, while nice, also has shown signs of wear and tear and it could be that Apple has looked into using something else, something more durable.
The iPhone 6 design should also retain a premium build, there is no going backward at Apple, and it should come with similar dimensions. The iPhone 5s is 112 grams heavy and 7.6mm thin. If the iPhone 6 is larger, expect Apple to keep the weight change minimal and the device thin.
Since the arrival of the iPhone 4, the iPhone has used a Retina Display. Last year’s iPhone 5 added a larger screen and 16:9 aspect ratio to the mix but the quality of the display has not drastically changed for many years. The iPhone 5s’ 1136 x 640 pixel resolution at 326 pixels per inch is still good, but there are many who are calling upon Apple to make a change in the face of the 1080p displays and rumors of even better displays in 2014.
There are also those who want a larger screen on the iPhone. While Android screens have gotten bigger and bigger over the years, Apple has only made a modest change, from 3.5-inches to 4-inches. From the looks of things, if there was ever a year that Apple not only changed up the quality of the iPhone display but also the size, 2014 would be the year.
Several outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, have claimed that the iPhone 6 will finally introduce the big screen that many prospective iPhone buyers have been looking. Recent rumors have centered around a 4.5-inch to 5-inch display though that is far from concrete and is likely just be one of several different sizes that Apple is considering.
NPD DisplaySearch, which accurately predicted the iPad 3′s Retina Display, claims that Apple is working on two different display sizes including a 4.7-inch 1280 × 720 display and a 5.7-inch 1920 × 1080. And respected KGI Securities analyst Ming Chi Kuo believes Apple is planning an iPhone 6 with a 4.5-inch to 5-inch display in 2014. It was Kuo who accurately predicted many of the iPhone 5s features ahead of the launch.
While a size hasn’t been decided upon just yet, the fact that these sources have rallied around a larger screen size is a sign that a larger iPhone model could indeed be on the way. If Apple does include this, we expect the iPhone 6 to have thinner bezels than the iPhone 5s and potentially be taller and a little wider so that it can house the larger display.
At this point, it’s hard to argue with these track records and so, we expect the iPhone 6 display to be different than any iPhone display that we have ever seen. Both in terms of size and quality. And that includes the iPhone 5s display.
Most of the iPhone 6 rumors have been focused on the launch date and the display and we haven’t seen much of anything else leak out just yet. Of course, what we have seen are patents suggesting possible features like a camera that would allow the user to change the point of focus after taking a photo. However, patents don’t always include features of the immediate future.
As we’ve pointed out, Apple recently purchased PrimeSense, the company is best known for their work on the Microsoft Kinect, a device that can detect user motion and their place in a room and one that now comes stock with the Xbox One. The video below shows a Primesense sensor on a tablet. The sensor is capable of taking a 3D photo. The video shows the Kinect-like sensing capabilities.
We’ve seen Apple’s acquisitions play a huge role in shaping the iPhone, think Siri and TouchID, so it’s possible that we could see a big focus on sensors and the camera in the upcoming iPhone 6.
This of course would not be surprising. Year-after-year, Apple upgrades its iPhone camera and processor so the iPhone 6 will almost certainly come with parts that help it best the iPhone 5s’ current 8MP iSight camera and 64-bit A7 processor.
Apple also puts a big focus on battery life which means that we expect the iPhone 6 to feature the same high quality battery life that iPhone buyers have come to expect.
Currently, the iPhone 5s comes with iOS 7.0.4, Apple’s latest version of iOS. In the weeks ahead, it will be upgraded to iOS 7.1. It will likely see a few more incremental iOS 7.1 updates before it is upgraded with next year’s version of iOS, a piece of software that is almost certainly going to be called iOS 8.
Nothing is known about iOS 8 but because Apple always introduces new hardware with new software, we expect the iPhone 6 to debut with iOS 8 on board. The iPhone 5s will also get whatever is next and we do expect it to get iOS 8 between the iPhone 6 launch and the iPhone 6 release.
While there aren’t any features to speak of just yet, there are a few things to keep in mind. One, there is the potential for the iPhone 5s to miss out on a feature or two. Apple tends to use unique software features to make its new iPhone that much more attractive and it could certainly off something with the iPhone 6. Perhaps, centered on the larger display.
The iPhone 5s will also get support for a year less. The iPhone 6 will start on iOS 8 while the iPhone 5s will see it as an update through iTunes. Apple tends to offer three years of support to its iPhones which means that the iPhone 5s should get iOS 9 and iOS 10 while the iPhone 6 should be supported through iOS 11.
We expect iOS 8 to build on the foundation of iOS 7, meaning, users should not expect Apple to abandon the current design. Instead, it should come with tweaks and enhancements to current features in addition to new ones, of which the iPhone 6 and iPhone 5s will both benefit.
This year’s iPhone 5s launch saw T-Mobile offer the device right from the get-go for the first time. We also saw U.S. Cellular, the nation’s fifth-largest carrier, finally join the fray. Predictably, the iPhone 5s also showed up on several smaller carriers in the United States, giving buyers a wealth of options. And this is exactly what buyers should expect from the iPhone 6.
We expect the iPhone 6 launch to be the company’s biggest. That means, all five major carriers on board, right from the beginning. It should also make its way to many of the same regional carriers that currently house the iPhone 5s. Anything different than a five-carrier launch with several others close behind would be shocking.
The iPhone 5s arrived for the usual $199.99 on-contract price, keeping in line with previous versions of the iPhone that launched for the same exact price. The iPhone 5s will more than likely stay around that price for the months to come, at least at Apple, before it either drops in price or is killed off in favor of the iPhone 6.
No word yet on the price of the iPhone 6 but given how comfortable Apple has gotten with $199.99, we would be surprised to see the company up the price like it did with the iPad mini with Retina Display this year. It bumped that price up $70.
Large high-resolution displays aren’t cheap but this is a price point that users have grown accustomed to, year-after-year, iPhone upgrade-after-upgrade so at the moment, we expect the iPhone 6 to land here as well with a $99 iPhone and free iPhone rounding out the company’s 2014 iPhone lineup.