iPhone 5 Release Just Months After iPhone 4S?

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By Carlo Alejandro Fernandez | November 10, 2011 7:28 PM EST

South Korean newspaper The Hankyoreh reports that Apple Inc. was working on a release of the iPhone 5 this year but issues with a key part forced the Cupertino, California company to unveil the iPhone 4S instead.

"As far as we understand, Apple newly assigned production of two key components for its iPhone 5 and iPad 3 to a Taiwanese company, but these showed problems such as overheating during final tests," The Hankyoreh quoted one Samsung Electronics official as saying.

Samsung is a key supplier of chips and screens for the iPad and the iPhone.  But legal issues spanning three continents -- Apple's claims that Samsung's Galaxy devices are imitating the design and functionality of the iPhone and iPad, Samsung's counterclaims of Apple's violation of wireless patents -- have forced Apple to look for a new supplier.  But after the Taiwanese supplier failed to replicate Samsung's success, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Samsung COO Lee Jae-yong apparently met last month to mend ties.

Apple last month launched the iPhone 4S, which is available for $199 on a two-year contract or $649 contract-free.  The iPhone 4S retained the design of the iPhone 4 although it had a new processor (the A5 chip used in the iPad 2), has an upgraded camera, and features a virtual assistant.

Reports confirming that the iPhone 5 was already in the works early this year does indicate that the iPhone 4S is just an interim model rather than a fifth generation iPhone.  Being an update to the iPhone 4 rather than a successor implies that the true fifth generation iPhone, i.e. the iPhone 5, should be ready in a couple of months rather than in a year.

But Apple did package the iPhone 4S as a totally new smartphone, emphasizing that "inside, it's all new."  The iPhone 4S sports a 3.5-inch screen; an 8-megapixel, 1080p high-definition camera; an A5 dual-core chip processor that a graphic processor that is seven times faster; two antennae to transmit and receive data; CDMA and GSM connectivity; 8 hours of 3G talk-time, and new applications like Siri and Find My Friends.  Apple's brand, as well as the death of founder Steve Jobs which put Apple in front pages, pushed Apple to report record sales of 4 million units in the first three days.

The astounding success of the iPhone 4S could force Apple to push back the release of the iPhone 5.  Otherwise, fanboys who lined up for the iPhone 4S would find their phones obsolete just after a couple of months and would have to pay steep termination fees to upgrade.

It remains to be seen how long the iPhone 4S could hold the fort for Apple in the highly competitive smartphone market.  Other than its Siri feature, the iPhone 4S at this stage is already failing to keep up with rivals in terms of display, power and speed.  New phones from HTC, Motorola and Samsung have are going big-but-skinny with new phones with 4-inch-plus screens and also offer a richer web experience with 4G LTE connectivity.  The Galaxy Nexus, for example has a bold new design, has no physical buttons, a 4.65-inch 1,280×720-pixel Super AMOLED HD curved glass screen, a dual-core 1.2 GHz Ti OMAP 4460 processor, and 1 GB of RAM.

Apple used to lead the smartphone market in terms of innovation but delays with the iPhone 5 have allowed Android rivals to gain ground and produce devices with better specs.

While specs alone don't define a device's greatness, time will come when Apple could no longer rely on its brand alone when rival phones' superiority becomes more obvious.

Asus has already released an Android tablet that runs on the NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor.  While it offers 3 times the graphics performance of its predecessor, Tegra 3, which is based on the Cortex-A9 processor design from ARM, actually draws less power (61 percent less), thanks to a fifth low-power companion core.  HTC will use the 1.3 GHz quad-core processor for its soon to be released HTC EDGE, which will run on the Android Ice Cream Sandwich platform, and will sport a 8-mexapixel full HD camera, a 4.7-inch HD display, and 1 GHz of RAM.  Samsung released the Galaxy S 2 in March this year and is expected to launch at the same time next year the Galaxy S 3, which is expected to have a 2 GHz quad-core processor.

Rumors say that Apple is preparing a new phone that would have an A6 quad-core processor, an all-new design, a bigger 4-inch screen, 4G LTE connectivity, NCF chips for mobile payments, and a dual-LED flash camera.  But those specs for an Apple device remains more fiction than fact as Apple has only unveiled the iPhone 4S.

As for the Android devices, those specs are already real.  New Android phones already have NCF, 4-inch screens and 4G LTE (which would give 8- 25Mbps of download speed, compared to only up to 7 Mbps for the iPhone 4S).  And the new batch of Samsung, Motorola and HTC phones months from now will have quad-core processors.

Apple should release the real fifth generation iPhone just months before it goes out of style.

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