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iPhone 5: What to expect

While no one outside of Apple's inner circles know what it will be called — iPhone 5, new iPhone or something else altogether — all signs point to a new device on the market by the third week of September.

Between leaked photos out of Asia, patent filings, Foxconn CEO comments (the Chinese manufacturer responsible for building Apple's products), cellular carriers clearing stock of the iPhone 4S (and telling employees not to take a vacation between Sept. 21 through 30), it's pretty certain the iPhone 5 — let's just call it that for the time being — will be available in a month's time.

The new phone is expected to be officially announced on September 12, when preorders would also start, and available about a week later.

And let's face it: there's a lot riding on this release for Apple — now the most valuable company in history at more than $619 billion — to keep its momentum going in the right direction. By some analysts' predictions, Apple could be the world's first "trillion-dollar baby" if the new iPhone, a possible iPad mini and an iTV product all succeed.

OK, so what's the iPhone 5 going to have, you ask? A lot, by all accounts -- and we're not even referring to what's confirmed to be in the upcoming iOS 6 operating system. Let's take a look at what we know and what we think we know.

Bigger screen

It's not likely to be as big as the Samsung Galaxy S III's 4.8-inch display, but iPhone 5 will likely have a bigger screen than the 3.5-incher we've been staring at on the iPhone since it launched in 2007. According to photos leaked to MacRumors.com a few days ago, the new iPhone might be about 14 percent bigger, up to 4 inches in diameter. That's not a significant bump up in size, mind you, but certainly better for web browsing, messaging, ebooks, GPS navigation, games and video (in fact, the increase will likely change the aspect ratio from 3:2 to a widescreen 16:9). Apple will also pack more pixels on the taller screen, to ensure it's still a "Retina" display -- meaning its pixel density is so high the human eye is unable to distinguish individual dots.

Thinner body, bigger battery & new connector

The new screen — likely to be one of the biggest features in the iPhone 5 — will also be thinner, contributing to an even svelter smartphone. Apple was recently awarded a patent related to integrating touch sensors with the actual display circuits, opposed to placing the touch sensors on top of the LCD screen (currently, the way it's done). This will result in a thinner display, expected to trim the entire iPhone's depth by about 1.2mm.

On a related note, rumor has it the iPhone will have an all-new housing with a full metal back, replacing the breakable glass on the iPhone 4S.

As for the connectors, it seems the headphone jack has been moved from the top left of the phone to the bottom left, beside a small connector — 8- to 19-pin, allegedly — compared to the wide-mouth 30-pin connector in the current suite of iOS devices (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad) and the Apple nano, too. Unless there's an adaptor in the box to support the many thousands of accessories on the market, such as speaker docks, this change might frustrate current Apple customers. Apple is changing to this smaller dock connector on all future iOS products, various sources say.

On the subject of hardware, it's no secret the iPhone 4S battery is less than ideal for all of the phone's power-draining abilities. A leaked photo acquired by 9to5Mac points to a bigger battery in the iPhone 5 — but not by much. The current iPhone 4S sports a 1,430mAh battery (up from 1,420 mAh on the iPhone 4), and this photo shows a slightly better 1,440mAh battery, and upping to 3.8 volts from 3.7.

Let's just hope the new battery doesn't get as hot as the new iPad -- or take as long to charge it up.

New wireless tech

Speaking of smaller, there's talk (and photos) of a new nano SIM under the hood of iPhone 5 to give the iPhone cellular connectivity. Apple has been pushing for this as a standard for some time, so we'll soon see if iPhone 5 is the first to house this new SIM card.

Other changes to its wireless capabilities include 4G/LTE data speeds which take full advantage of the faster wireless networks available in select markets. For the uninitiated, "Long Term Evolution" cellular speeds rival if not exceed broadband Internet connections at home thanks to download speeds that top 72 Megabits per second -- though this number is "theoretical" opposed to slower "real world" performance. In areas without LTE support, the iPhone 5 would revert to HSPA+ (up to 21 Megabits per second downloads) or depending on the carrier, dual-carrier HSDPA for download speeds of up to 42 Megabits per second.

Already in the new iPad, LTE support in the iPhone 5 is extremely likely. That, and the Korea Times says Apple has been in discussions with two Korean mobile carriers (SK Telecom and KT) to include iPhone 5 on their LTE networks.

While not as likely as LTE, the iPhone 5 might also include near-field communication (NFC), a small wireless radio that essentially turns the smartphone into a digital wallet. This would allow iPhone users to tap-and-pay at supporting retailers and vending machines. Similar to Google Wallet, an iWallet app would be linked to your credit card or bank account. There are other applications for NFC-based smartphones, too, such as easily exchanging information with another smartphone, swiping to access information or media (such as poster of a movie to download a trailer) and to get on a bus or in your condo.

Apple recently acquired AuthenTec, a digital security company that makes, among other things, fingerprint sensors used in laptops. MacDailyNews suggests the fingerprint reader could be embedded in the Home button. Cool.

With all of these unknowns, here's one think you can bank on: whatever the new iPhone will be called, whenever it'll be available and regardless of what it can do, this will be the biggest tech event of the year -- and perhaps propel Apple towards being the first thirteen digit company. iOutstanding.

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