While Apple's next-generation iPad seems to be drawing the lion's share of speculation recently, rumors are also emerging about the company's next iPhone.
Over the weekend, the Chinese-language Economic Daily News reported that Apple had selected a handful of new companies as component builders for the iPhone 5, including Foxconn Electronics and Foxlink. By shifting their manufacturing to Taiwanese and Chinese vendors, in theory, Apple could lower its iPhone fabrication costs.
"Foxconn will become the iPhone 5's new earphone supplier," DigiTimes reported Jan. 21, paraphrasing the Economic Daily News' article. "Japan's Foster was the previous supplier, but a strengthening yen has spurred Apple to look for more cost-effective sources ... Foxlink will produce earphone jack sockets for the iPhone 5."
Apple's traditional culture of secrecy, combined with the popularity of its mobile products, usually results in a growing buzz ahead of each new smartphone or tablet launch. Throughout the latter half of 2011, even as Apple continued to focus on selling the iPhone 4, rumors began to circulate about possible features of the iPhone 5.
In November, for example, the Financial Times reported that the next iPhone would not include a SIM card-contradicting earlier reports that Apple was working with Gemalto, a SIM card manufacturer, to include just that very thing. Meanwhile, blogs and analysts speculated that the iPhone 5 would include everything from 3G-enabled FaceTime to an upgraded processor.
The iPhone 4, launched in June 2010, fulfilled its buzz and sales expectations. Despite some well-publicized issues with the smartphone's exterior antenna rim, Apple executives suggested that early demand for the device strained the company's manufacturing capacity. "My phone is ringing off the hook for people who want more supply," COO Tim Cook told analysts and investors listening to Apple's July 20 earnings call. "We're selling everything we can make."
Apple's roadmap for the iPhone-established over the past few years-generally centers on a summer unveiling and launch for each successive version. But Apple's recent unveiling of the CDMA-based iPhone 4 on Verizon, breaking AT&T's exclusive hold on the device in the United States, could affect that roadmap; the company could choose to upgrade both carriers' smartphones in June or else stagger respective launches throughout the year.
Analysts generally seem to believe the Verizon deal will massively benefit Apple; in a Jan. 11 note, research firm iSuppli forecast shipments of some 12.1 million CDMA iPhones through Verizon and other global CDMA wireless suppliers in 2011.