updated 12:15 am EDT, Fri August 16, 2013
New chip expected to be 20 percent more efficient, use faster RAM
KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, a technology analyst with an above-average track record for accuracy, has told investors in a note on Thursday that the iPhone "5S" expected next month from Apple will be a lot like the other "S" devices -- using the same basic form factor as the previous model, but with various tweaks on and under the hood. Kuo believes the new iPhone will mark the debut of the "A7" processor, use faster RAM, offer an improved camera and fingerprint sensor (but not near-field communication) and add a "gold" color option to the usual black and white colors.
The company will continue with the four-inch screen, Kuo claims, despite the fact that competitors with larger models may be stealing some sales away from Apple over the screen size. Though it is one of the smallest screens in the "flagship phone" class, the iPhone 5's screen size makes it easier to use with one hand than many of its larger rivals, and offers better color accuracy and the Retina-quality pixel count that competitors are only just catching up to. The smaller screen has not stopped the iPhone 5 from regaining share in the North American market and maintaining its "most popular" individual brand title.
Kuo also believes the amount of RAM will be the same in the next iPhone as it is in the current model (1GB), but will use the faster LPDDR3 RAM in addition to a faster, more efficient processor to keep the speed of the iPhone highly competitive.
Kuo told clients that the iPhone 5S will be the first unit with a new processor from Apple called the "A7," based on the ARMv8 architecture which suggests it could be 20 percent more efficient than the current dual-core A6. The current chip is rated at 1.3GHz, which is already faster than the Nexus 7, HTC's One X and the Samsung Galaxy S III. In addition, he speculated that the A7 may include preliminary support for 64-bit in preparation for a fully 64-bit future "A8" chip, which would also require changes to iOS and apps.
Kuo also said he believes the iPhone 5S will sport a fingerprint-sensor home button covered in sapphire glass like the camera lens, and that the camera will use a larger, fixed f2.0 aperture with dual LED flashes for better pictures. He did not comment on whether the camera's resolution would move to 12MP as has been widely speculated, but said that he expects Apple to offer a 128GB storage option for the iPhone 5S as it did for the latest iPad.
The analyst is also predicting that the company will add a "gold" color option to the traditional black-silver and white-silver models. Some gold-colored parts have been seen in leaks, but no chassis suggesting a body color change has yet been revealed. Finally, Kuo told investors he doesn't expect Apple to support near-field communication (NFC) in the next iPhone, as support for it is still very anemic compared to Bluetooth and other options. He suggested that support might be added to future iPhone models.
Unconfirmed reports have suggested that Apple is planning a special event on September 10 to reveal the latest iPhone model and perhaps also a lower-cost additional model aimed at prepaid and developing markets, often called the "iPhone 5C." Reports have suggested that such a device would not be a cheap (and cheaply-made) handset with limited features, but rather an economic version of the iPhone 5 with at many of the same features that would sell for less than the current models but well above the low-end of Android phones. Apple used a similar strategy with the eight-inch iPad mini (which is priced well above its nearest competitor, but is a much higher-quality device) and was rewarded with it becoming the company's second most popular product, allegedly outselling the full-sized 10-inch iPad by a wide margin.