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iPhone Form Factor to Change?

As consumer demand for the iPhone 5 raises to a near frenzy, leaks from companies that will be distributing both the device itself and accessories for the phone are causing tech fans to wonder just what Apple has in store with the release of its newest smartphone device. Apple generally announces the release of the latest incarnation of the popular phone in June, but this summer’s WWDC was notably absent of any official announcements. Instead, Steve Jobs outlined the new operating system available for Mac computers, while also talking about iOS 5 for iPad, iPod, and iPhone and the iCloud.

A leaked document from Best Buy, the large consumer electronics company, shows that the company plans to begin offering the iPhone 5 on Sprint to customers next month. Analysts had originally expected the iPhone to launch in September, so the potential release of the device next month has both investors and consumers excited at the possibilities. At any rate, the device should have no shortage of customers ready to add it to their personal collection of mobile gear. According to a recent poll, 35% of American consumers would purchase the device without ever having seen the product with their own eyes.

The latest rumors about the iPhone seem to revolve around the shape of the new device. The form factor of the smartphone has undergone several subtle changes since its initial release in 2007, with newer models incorporating thinner structures. The first major change to the phone’s overall shape and design took place with the release of the iPhone 4, which made waves with its boxier shape and antenna placed around the outside of the phone. The antenna would later cause several issues for Apple, with consumer complaints about dropped calls becoming so prevalent that Apple issued free cases to many consumers who had purchased the phone.

The adjustment of the phone’s antenna seems like a natural step for Apple to take with the iPhone 5, but recently leaked cases for the new device seem to show that a lot more than antennas are going to change when the latest version of the iPhone hits the market. Cases currently available for the iPhone 5 are significantly longer and wider than the iPhone 4, leading analysts to wonder whether Apple has increased screen size in the newest device. Further complicating the equation are the design plans that were leaked earlier this summer, which seem to show a device that is slightly shorter and only barely wider than the iPhone 4.

Several different explanations for the phenomenon exist. The first is simply that case manufacturers have placed too much trust in faulty information. Apple does not typically share information with distributors and third-party manufacturers until the general release announcement, in an attempt to stifle any would-be informants from sharing information about the phone with the press. As some rumors claim that the newest iPhone will only make minor improvements, à la the iPhone 3Gs, this could potentially mean that manufacturers have simply jumped the gun.

Were Apple to change the screen size of its device, the jury is out as to whether consumers would be open to the change. It could potentially mark a change in direction for the tech company, further bridging the gap between the iPhone and its big brother, the iPad. Of course, specific information on the iPhone won’t be available until Apple decides to release the coveted device. With the latest rumors circulating around an October release, perhaps we shall all know what to expect in the newest iPhone in just a short while.

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