Apple’s holiday lineup is looking better than ever, but that doesn’t mean the company is standing still. Of course club Cupertino is already developing the next iPhone and researching its successor.

If history is an indication, the next iPhone will retain the iPhone 5’s form factor and industrial design while boosting hardware specs with a faster CPU/GPU, better cameras, updated wireless and cellular technologies and so forth. And as we head into the holidays, parts firm ETrade Supply conveniently posts an image said to depict a backplate on the iPhone 5S…

MacRumors observes the part is “extremely similar” to the two-tone design of the iPhone 5.

Also, this:

This iPhone 5S part is, however, distinctly different from its iPhone 5 counterpart in several ways, most obviously in the arrangement of the screw holes for attaching the logic board.

Here is a side-by-side comparison.


Notice the difference in the logic board screw holes layout of the iPhone 5 (right) and the rumored iPhone 5S (left).

Other subtle differences can be seen marked on the above photograph.

I wouldn’t read too much into this.

Firstly, the origin of the photos is unknown.

And secondly, this could easily belong to one of the iPhone 5 prototypes that were floating around in the run-up to the September release.

This isn’t the first time we hear about the iPhone 5S.

Chinese-language newspaper Commercial Times thinks the iPhone 5S has entered trial production, with the initial production volumes are likely to top 50,000-100,000 units.

Apple is reportedly expected to mass produce them in the first quarter of 2013, which would break the usual summer refresh cycle. Apparently, Apple has accelerated the certification processes for related parts and components for the iPhone 5S because low yield rates have limited its ability to manufacture the iPhone 5 in volume.

That makes little sense to me. The iPhone 5 is flying off the shelves as we speak and Apple would be foolish to replace it with a new version before summer 2013. Also, the iPhone 5 is still rolling out globally and won’t available in a hundred countries before year’s end.

On the other hand, the fourth-generation iPad with refreshed internals was released just six months following the iPad 3 launch in March so perhaps Tim Cook & Co. are switching Apple’s gadget production to the semi-annual cycle.

Launch major iOS device upgrades and refreshing them six months later with newer components might anger some people, but the competition is tough everywhere around the world and the annual release schedule could be backfiring now.

Should Apple release the iPhone 5S before summer 2013?