There's no shortage of rumors swirling about the iPhone 5 right now, but we've got some enlightening information (and an image) that might help paint a better picture of what Apple's next play in the mobile market could be. While the current crop of chatter on the internet suggests the iPhone 5 will be little more than a spec bump to the iPhone 4, that's not the story we've been hearing at all. In fact, the device could look something a little more like the image above -- an image which is our rendering based on information from a variety of sources.
Note: Yes, folks, that's our mockup -- not a real device.
For starters -- as I reported back in January on Engadget -- the design of the phone is set to radically change ("a completely redesigned handset"). Our sources say the new model (or at least one of the new designs in testing) looks "more like the iPod touch than the iPhone 4." The phone will be thinner than the iPhone 4, and may have a "teardrop" shape which goes from thick to thin (something along the lines of the MacBook Air profile).
In a sketch supplied to us by a source (on which the image above is based), the home button is doing double duty as a gesture area; this falls in line with testing we've seen for gestures on the iPad, and our sources say that gestures are definitely coming in a future version of iOS. The home button will likely be enlarged, but not scrapped altogether. Furthermore, we're hearing that the screen on the device will occupy the entire (or near to it) front of the phone, meaning almost no bezel. Our source says the company is doing very "interesting things" with bonded glass technology, and has been exploring designs where the earpiece and sensors are somehow behind the screen itself, making for a device where the display is actually edge-to-edge. Regardless, the sketch we've seen suggests the screen will go up to 3.7-inches while keeping the current resolution, and at that size, pixel density goes from 326 to 312 (a drop of 13ppi). That means that Apple can still tout Retina Display technology (the claim is that anything above 300ppi means the pixels aren't distinguishable at 12 inches). Rumors have been suggesting that the size would bump up to 4 inches, but at that size with the current resolution, pixel density drops to 288, making it harder for Apple to use the RD branding.
While the art we've seen shows some form of inductive or touch charging, our sources can't confirm whether or not Apple's working on its own version of cable-free juicing. There's also a "swipe area" shown in the drawing which appears to be on the bottom and / or top of the device -- that could very well be an NFC point, but that's pure speculation on our part.
Another interesting note about this phone: this week the tech community has been abuzz over comments Verizon's CFO Fran Shammo made in reference to the next Apple phone. While answering an analyst question over changes in the company's margins, Shammo stated:
"The fluctuation, I believe, will come when a new device from Apple is launched, whenever that may be, and that we will be, on the first time, on equal footing with our competitors on a new phone hitting the market, which will also be a global device."
This information falls perfectly in line with news I outlined in that same Engadget post, meaning that this next phone could be the first to really utilize Qualcomm's dual GSM / CDMA Gobi chipset (the Verizon iPhone 4 has the MDM6600 inside, but does not work in both modes). That would be a smart play for Apple, since the company has just made huge inroads into the Chinese market, and a world phone that did double duty would mean a simultaneous (or nearly simultaneous) release.
Now, keep in mind that this info isn't fact -- we're getting lots of threads from lots of places and trying to make sense of the noise. The versions of devices our sources are seeing could be design prototypes and not production-ready phones. Still, there are strong indications that Apple will surprise a public that's expecting a bump more along the lines of the 3G to 3GS -- and this is some insight into where those designs might be headed. We're working on a couple of other intriguing pieces of information concerning future Apple products... so stay tuned for much, much more.
Update: One quick note worth pointing out -- the taper is probably a little exaggerated in the mockup (that's thanks to our so-so Photoshopping skills), and we're not saying the backing will be metal, like the iPod touch. That's simply the basis for this image.
Update 2: A friend of the site, Corey Daniels (@CDugD) mocked up a more Unibody-style version of the phone (above) -- this might give you a better impression of what a production model could look like.