updated 06:22 am EDT, Mon April 29, 2013
Unconfirmed Japanese sales form claims 13MP camera, iOS 7
An allegedly authentic sales sheet from a Japanese telecom purports to confirm that Apple's next iPhone will be called the 5S, and will begin preorders on June 20 with a formal launch sometime in July. The new phone is said from the document to also include iOS 7 and include a 13-megapixel rear camera. The timing appears to contradict statements by Apple CEO Tim Cook that new products would not be seen until at least the fall, but his carefully-chosen words leave room for some interpretation.
The document, which is properly formatted for the kind of sales-staff "cheat sheet" commonly seen at cell phone dealers reselling carrier KDDI's "AU" service, could nonetheless easily be fake, reports Nowhereelse.fr, which first reported on the document. Earlier rumors had speculated about a late June debut for the device, which would mark the sixth anniversary of the release of the original iPhone.
However, given that iOS 7 won't be seen by Apple developers prior to the Worldwide Developers' Conference a week earlier than the claimed pre-order timeframe, this would leave them almost no time to test applications with the new OS prior to its release. Casting further doubt on the dates mentioned by the alleged sales sheet are the words of CEO Tim Cook, who explicitly said in the most recent conference cal with investment analysts, "Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software, and services that we can't wait to introduce this fall and throughout 2014," which seemed to clearly indicate that Apple did not plan to do any major releases until then.
Nonetheless, his statement (which he reiterated under questioning from analysts) can be interpreted differently -- perhaps referring to only "new" products rather than "spec bump" refreshes. Thus far, Apple has yet to produce any new models or new products in 2013 -- an unusual lull in the revisions and product timetable that is playing a role in the decline of AAPL stock price, but also assures a plethora of new products to arrive in time for the holiday buying season this year.
Proponents of an early summer iPhone release argue that getting a new model out soon would take share away from Samsung's Galaxy S4 among trend-conscious buyers before the model has time to build too much of an audience, particularly given the smartphone's lukewarm reception as a gimmick-laden, lightweight refresh of the Galaxy S III rather than a totally new model. Reviewers have generally agreed that Samsung's flagship is a worthy but not superior rival to the current iPhone 5 (or even the HTC One).
An updated iPhone 5S, however, with (presumably) a faster processor, faster graphics, a significantly-improved camera and an all-new design for the operating system would present a serious challenge to Apple's rivals. Bringing out the iPhone 5S in July might also clear the way for a later, long-rumored "low cost" plastic iPhone model to debut later in the year, as well as give more holiday spotlight to the fast-selling iPad, any new or refreshed Mac models and possibly other all-new products.
Apple has often used the WWDC to announce new products, but usually they are those devices aimed at the professional market rather than consumer models (though two iPhones -- the 3GS and 4 -- were announced there). Prior to Cook's statements, hopes had been building for a revamped Mac Pro, and some rumors still call for a refreshed MacBook Pro to be seen at the conference.
The Japanese sales sheet goes on to claim that the iPhone 5S would include a 13-megapixel camera made by NPC, a significant improvement from the well-regarded 8MP camera currently in the iPhone 5. Other rumors have said to expect a 12-megapixel camera in the next model, but this brings up the issue of storage capacity, as pictures continue to get larger on a device with very limited room. The quoted 13MP spec could also be a rounding up (for perhaps a 12.8MP camera module), but the manufacturer name contradicts another rumor from a previously-reliable source that a Vietnamese company called Wonderful Saigon Electrics would be making a 12MP module.