Everything we think we know about the iPhone 5S

iPhones (graphite iPhone 5S teaser 002)

It’s been a long, long time, or so it seems, since Apple unveiled the iPhone 5. And while the handset has done decidedly well for the company, it’s been close to a year now, and consumers are ready for something new.

If our intel is accurate, they shouldn’t have to wait much longer. Apple sent out invites last week to a media event set to take place on Tuesday, September 10 at its Cupertino, California campus. And it’s widely expected to use the stage to unveil a new handset.

In fact, most of the evidence suggests that, for the first time in its history, Apple will unveil two new iPhones next week. One is the replacement for the flagship iPhone 5, believed to be called the iPhone 5S, and the other is an all-new budget model, allegedly called the iPhone 5C.

Now, Christian has already done a great job going over what we expect to see from the latter, so it’s time to take a look at the former. Here’s everything we think we know about the iPhone 5S…

iPhones (iPhone 5, graphite gold iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C)From left: iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C

All of the information you’ll find below comes directly from hundreds of reports by credible news outlets, proven-accurate analysts, and various component and part leaks. While it’s impossible, obviously, to confirm the legitimacy of any of this, the fact that everything fits a similar narrative is assuring.

Let’s get to it.

What’s Apple going to call it?

Sometimes it’s tough to speculate on what Apple is going to call a new product. They like to use a variety of naming schemes, including numbers (iPhone 3G, 4, 5), Pro and Consumer models (MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, iMac, MacBook Air), and then off the wall stuff like last year’s ‘The New iPad.’

But this is not one of those times. Since we first started hearing talk of the seventh generation iPhone late last year, the device has always and consistently been referred to as the iPhone 5S.

hi-res 5s boxUnconfirmed photos of iPhone 5S retail packaging

Why? Because Apple has, for several years now, alternated the naming of its handset between numbered models (iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, iPhone 5) and S models (iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4S) in a tic-tock-like pattern. First comes the numbered model, which typically features a new hardware design, and then comes the S model, which usually sports its predecessor’s design with a focus on internal and software improvements. And as you’ll see below, everything about this year’s iPhone points to it being an S model.

What’s it going to look like?

It’s not hard to picture what the iPhone 5S is going to look like, just take a quick look at the iPhone 5. Following the S model trend of year’s past, the two handsets look nearly identical.

gold iphone 2iPhone 5 stacked on top of champagne-colored iPhone 5S 

Practically everything we’ve seen as far as 5S part leaks matches up with the iPhone 5. Looking at the rear shell, you’ll see a 3.5mm headphone jack, a microphone, a Lightning port and a speaker across the bottom, and around the sides you’ll find familiar volume, mute and power buttons.

On the back there’s the usual iPhone and Apple logos, and a cluster in the top lefthand corner that features an iSight camera lens, a microphone and a flash. Note that one of the few differences we have seen thus far between the iPhone 5 and 5S is that the latter features a pill-shaped flash, which is believed to house dual LED bulbs. More on that later.

iPhone 5S (graphite, gold, Sonny Dickson 001)Champagne and graphite iPhone 5S shells with various components

Interestingly enough, we haven’t seen much in the way of front part leaks for the iPhone 5S, but reports claim that it will look very familiar. We imagine the same 4-inch display will separate an iSight camera and earpiece slit up top, and a large Home button on bottom. We do, however, expect to see at least a slight change in the Home button, considering it’s believed to contain a built-in fingerprint sensor. More on that later too.

Same 4-inch Retina display

Though there’s been some talk lately of Apple testing iPhone displays between 4.5 and 6-inches, this year’s model, the 5S, is expected to feature the same 4-inch Retina display found on the iPhone 5.

iOS 7 (multiple iPhones, flat 002)

For those not familiar with the panel’s specs, it offers a resolution of 1136-by-640-pixels, at 326 ppi (or pixels per inch). And if you really want to nerd-out, it has an 800:1 contrast ratio and 500 cd/m2 max brightness.

What about the cameras?

Unlike the display, the camera specs for the upcoming iPhone 5S are a little bit tougher to nail down. For starters, we haven’t heard much regarding the front-facing FaceTime camera, meaning there’s little evidence that it will be an improvement over the 1.2-megapixel sensor found in the current iPhone. That being said, with prices of camera modules dropping all the time, we wouldn’t be surprised if it received a little bump.

facetime ios 7

As for the rear iSight camera, we’ve heard conflicting reports calling for everything from an 8-megapixel sensor to a 12-megapixel sensor, but the consensus seems to be settling on the former. Yes, it seems likely that Apple will keep the iPhone’s camera sensor at 8MP, while improving various other components. For instance, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes it will have a wider f/2.0 aperture and a dual LED-flash. The dual flash is said to be made of both white and yellow bulbs for improved low-light shooting.

iPhone 5S glass wedge (dual-LED flash, NowhereElse 001)Rear iPhone 5S component showing pill-shaped opening for dual-flash

But perhaps the most interesting thing we’ve seen regarding the iPhone 5S camera is a new feature that surfaced in the source code of one of the early iOS 7 betas. It’s called “Mogul mode,” and it allows for video recording at a frame rate of 120 frames per second. This would give users the ability to create slow motion videos, and other effects. And since the iPhone 5 can’t shoot video at 120 FPS, it’s likely that this new feature utilizes the 5S’ upgraded camera equipment.

Upgraded internals

The star of the iPhone 5S internals is going to be Apple’s new A7 processor, and if previous reports hold up, it’s going to be quite the upgrade over the current A6. Last month, Fox News’ Clayton Morris cited sources claiming that the chip is roughly 31% faster than its predecessor. “I’m hearing it’s very fast,” he said, “and I’ve also heard there’s a separate chip devoted to motion tracking.” It’s worth noting here that Morris’ claims haven’t been corroborated by any other reports, but they aren’t unlikely, given the aforementioned camera improvements.

iphone_5s_interiorInternal shot of an iPhone 5S prototype

As for the rest of the internals, we haven’t heard much. But it sounds like the A7 will be paired with 1GB of Elpida DRAM. It also appears likely that the new iPhone will feature a larger battery than its predecessor, with Ming-Chi Kuo calling for a 1600mAh pack (the 5 has a 1440mAh battery). The prediction is backed up by the above photo from MacRumors, which shows an alleged iPhone 5S prototype containing a substantially larger battery.

Connection options

The iPhone 5S is expected to come with a wide range of connection options allowing you to connect to virtually any cell network, wireless access point, or device. Bluetooth 4.0 is of course on the menu, as are all of the current cellular bands and frequencies including UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA, GSM/EDGE, CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B.

We also expect to see broader support for LTE, possibly including China Mobile’s TD-LTE network, but we aren’t anticipating support for the much faster LTE-A (or LTE Advanced). The technology just isn’t there yet.

ios 7 settings

As for Wi-Fi, we know 802.11a/b/g/n (802.11n 2.4GHz and 5GHz) will be supported, as they currently are in the iPhone 5, but we aren’t sure about the new 802.11ac standard. One would think it would make the cut, considering Apple’s latest Macs support it, but we’ve seen zero evidence supporting that theory.

Color and storage options

Now, let’s talk about color options. The iPhone 5 comes in two flavors: white and silver and slate and black. It appears that the iPhone 5S, however, will come in four colorways: white and silver, black and slate, white and champagne, and a mysterious graphite color. A lot of folks have scoffed at the idea of Apple offering a gold-colored handset, but this has been confirmed by multiple credible news outlets and part leaks. The good new is, though, that it’s so light and subtle, it looks more classy than gaudy.

Gold iPhone 5S (Sonny Dickson 009)Rear shell of a champagne-colored iPhone 5S

Storage options will likely follow the trend of 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB that we’ve seen over the past few years. There have been some rumblings though, that there will be a 128GB this time around. But the evidence for this theory is weak, outside of an August report [again] from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. However, given that Apple began offering a 128GB iPad model earlier this year, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think it would do the same with its smartphone.

Killer new feature

In past iPhone S models, Apple has provided at least one so-called ‘killer feature’ to entice folks to upgrade. In the 3GS, it was video recording, and with the 4S, it was Siri. For the 5S, it’s believed to be a fingerprint sensor built into the Home button. Here’s a concept of what it could look like (via Martin Hajek), based on recent photos of alleged iPhone 5S packaging, which depict a silver ring around the handset’s Home button.

mockup fingerprint sensor iPhone 5S Marti Hajek

The feature will utilize technology built by AuthenTec, which Apple purchased last summer for almost $400 million, and will allow users to quickly and securely unlock their phones. But that’s just the first phase. Eventually, the sensor could be used to replace passwords for both Apple and third-party services, as well as to authenticate mobile payments.

As far-fetched as this all sounds, there’s actually quite a bit of evidence here. Analyst and insider reports, part leaks, and code found within an early iOS 7 beta all corroborate the theory. Expect a fingerprint sensor in the new iPhone.

Pricing and Availability

What will the iPhone 5S cost? Well at this point, we have no reason to believe that the handset is going to be any more expensive than its predecessor. So that means that we would be looking at $649, $749 and $849 (USD) full retail for the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models respectively. Folks who plan on buying the phone subsidized through a carrier can expect the usual $199, $299 and $399 pricing. And if the rumored 128GB model shows up, we imagine it would fall in at $949 and $499. Wow.

iPhone 5 presser (Phil Schiller, iPhone family prices)

Initial availability for the iPhone 5S appears to be September 20. This is backed up by a scoop from business resource Nikkei, a premature announcement by China Telecom, and reports that both T-Mobile and AT&T have blacked out the date for employee vacations. And considering the 20th falls on the Friday of the week following Apple’s media event—a common launch sequence for Apple—we say it’s pretty likely.

Wrapping up

Rumors and reports have been very consistent this year regarding the iPhone 5S—there’s been very little conflicting information about the major aspects of the device. With that being said, this is Apple we’re talking about here—a company known to go through extraordinary lengths to keep its product plans secret—so keep in mind that none of this is official until Tim Cook and the executive team take the stage on Tuesday.

We’d like to think, though, that we did a pretty good job of wading through the pool of rumors and separating fact from fiction. I guess we’ll find out in 72 hours.

Be sure to share your thoughts on the iPhone 5S, or let us know if we missed something, in the comments below!