Apple may have revealed the shape of its next iPhone-the iPhone 5-in the beta for its Photo Stream service.
As detailed on the Apple-centric blog 9to5Mac, there's a tiny icon in the beta of an unusual-looking iPhone, complete with a rectangular home button and a screen that stretches nearly the whole width of the device. That icon resembles an earlier mockup created by the blog This Is My Next to illustrate what its sources were saying about the iPhone 5.
Tech publications have generally focused on September or October as a possible launch date for the iPhone 5. AllThingsD, speaking to unnamed sources "with knowledge of the situation," is claiming the latter as the unveiling month. That conflicts with a recent post by tech blog Gizmodo, whose own source-someone supposedly within AT&T-claims employee vacation requests for late September have been denied.
"Historically, the only time they've done this was for an iPhone release," read that email. "So we're looking at the last two weeks of September."
Meanwhile, analysts and pundits seem to be debating whether Apple intends to release a line of low-cost iPhones to complement its next-generation device. In theory, that would allow Cupertino to combat the rising number of cheap Google Android smartphones on the market.
Whether or not that low-cost line sees the light of day, Apple's next iPhone could prove a hit on its own merits. According to Experian's PriceGrabber shopping Website, some 35 percent of 3,000 U.S. consumers said they would buy the iPhone 5 upon its release. Around 48 percent of those polled said they preferred Apple's iOS platform to alternates such as Google's Android or BlackBerry.
Apple is currently undergoing a seismic transition with the resignation of longtime CEO Steve Jobs, who left the reins to former COO Tim Cook. At this point, analysts see the possible impact on Apple's short-term road map as minimal.
"Apple's product development road map stretches into multiple years ahead and has been shaped both by Jobs and by the organization he built," Forrester analyst JP Gownder wrote in an Aug. 24 corporate blog posting. "Jobs' departure won't affect Apple's product portfolio, quality or competitiveness for a long time-if ever."
He also suggested that Apple's combined talent outweighs the possible impact of its leader's permanent departure: "While Steve Jobs will go down in eventual history as an outstanding innovator, leader and world-changer, Apple is actually much more than its leader alone."
The first product up in the "new" Apple's lineup, of course, could be the iPhone 5.