Apple iPhone 5 Form Factor Debate Rages

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Speculation continues to rage over the likely form factor of the next generation Apple iPhone

The speculation continues to swirl over the likely form factor of the the Apple iPhone 5, with predictions of it being smaller, cheaper etc.

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times publish their share of iPhone rumours, usually based on unnamed sources “close to Apple,” but usually those reports correspond in their broader details. That was until this week, at least, when the two newspapers’ reports of the next iPhone collided like two out-of-control 18-wheelers.

First the Journal, in a 14 February article, detailed a next-generation iPhone “about half the size of the iPhone 4.”

iPhone Nano?

The unnamed source had apparently seen “a prototype of the phone late last year” and told the newspaper “it is intended for sale alongside Apple’s existing line.” The article declined to mention whether that “half the size” referred to the iPhone’s screen, thickness or some combination of both.

Three days later, the New York Times disputed the Journal’s report. “Apple is not currently developing a smaller iPhone,” reported the newspaper 17 February. “Apple’s engineers are currently focused on finishing the next version of the iPhone, which is likely to be similar in size to the current iPhone 4.” The Times’ unnamed source went on to add that Apple “was not planning to introduce a smaller iPhone any time soon.”

It’s always possible, of course, that Apple did build a smaller iPhone as an experiment never intended for wide release. Until Apple holds its inevitable unveiling event, though, the rumour mill surrounding the next iPhone will doubtlessly grind merrily away.

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Apple’s longstanding habit of not providing official comment – and keeping its upcoming products out of sight – helps fuel speculation and the company’s cachet. For publications, the fact that Apple rumours have a habit of attracting substantial readership doesn’t hurt, either.

Along those lines, rumours periodically erupt of shrunken Apple devices heading to market. Scuttlebutt over a seven-inch iPad circulated widely during summer 2010, only to die once Apple CEO Steve Jobs denigrated that particular tablet size during an October 2010 earnings call. Whispers of an iPhone Nano trace back even further, to at least 2008.

In the meantime, the biggest iPhone-related news focuses on the Verizon iPhone 4, which the carrier and Apple offered for general availability 10 February. Verizon claims that iPhone sales for the first day of preorder availability broke its pre-existing first-day sales records, but a 16 February posting on the Boy Genius Report hinted that in-store sales during the first five days of release might have been less than blockbuster.

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