The iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C might not even have made it through their first Christmas yet, but that hasn't stopped experts, rather surprisingly, already starting to speculate what's next for Apple's smartphone range.
So far, the feeling is that the iPhone 5C will take over from the iPhone 5S and the higher-end slot will be taken up by an iPhone 6. It's still very early days though, and we're as amazed as you that there is so much chattter already. We're most likely 11 months away from another iPhone launch after all.
Whether you want to believe everything is up to you, but sometimes it's nice to dream regardless. Read on sound off in the comments as to what you think Apple might (or might not) have in store for the iPhone 6.
Will the iPhone 6 have a bigger screen?
According to reports, the iPhone 6 will have a bigger screen than the current models. Jefferies analyst Peter Misek in his recent research note to investors said the iPhone 6 would have a 4.8-inch Retina+ IGZO display and his predictions echoed Yeung's note from June, which also said Apple's iPhone 6 would have a 4.8-inch display. It's 4-inches at the moment.
Aside from analysts, there have been websites with so-so track records, like China Times, which have also said the iPhone 6 will have a 4.8-inch Retina display with 1080p Full HD resolution. More credible reports, such as one notable report from The Wall Street Journal, have claimed Apple is indeed testing screen sizes ranging from 4.5 to 6-inches, nicely fitting in with all those rumours without being too specific.
There are also rumours from other websites, each with different, unnamed sources, which have asserted the next-generation iPhone will boast a different and thinner display technology. The new technology goes by the name of "in-cell". A thinner display might also hint at a thinner form factor, but it would ultimately more than likely mean a bigger device.
It's anybody's best guess as to whether Apple will follow Android manufacturers’ example and release an iPhone with a larger display, but Apple executives, including Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, have long mocked phablets and their seemingly oversized screens. So it might seem highly unlikely that the company would go up to 5 inches with its next-generation iPhone - but it said that a 7-inch tablet was a rubbish idea and then promptly launched the 7.9-inch touting iPad mini.
Let's also not forget that the iPhone 5 screen size increased from 3.5 in the 4S to 4-inches. The point: anything's possible.
It's also worth pointing out that in places iOS 7 could benefit from more screen space in certain places, especially when it comes to editing slow-mo videos on the iPhone 5S, for example. A bigger screen in a device that is just as small - think how Sony has achieved that with the Xperia Z, and it might not be such a stupid idea after all, especially if Apple adopts the same software tactics as it is using on the iPad mini that allows you to place your thumb on the screen edges and it be ignored.
Will the iPhone 6 design change and could we possibly see a curved screen?
Again based on history the shape, size, and look of the iPhone is likely to change. It changed from the first iPhone to the iPhone 3G, the 3GS to the iPhone 4 and the 4S to the iPhone 5. While anything is possible experts believe that the iPhone 6 would look different again.
Looking at the patent office for inspiration, the iPhone 6 might sport a curved or flexible screen. An Apple patent filing published by the US Patent and Trademark Office earlier this year revealed a potential iDevice design with a wrap-around AMOLED screen. The device looked awfully similar to a fourth-generation iPod nano, and so speculation has already attached itself to the iPhone.
According to the curved-screen patent, the screen could be unrolled or unfolded. That's possible due to a hinge mechanism, allowing the display area to double in size. The patent also mentioned facial-recognition, gesture control and a layered screen for 3D. But that's not all: Apple has taken out several patents on a Smart Bezel. That means the area around the screen could display information as sort of a secondary display.
Apple described the Smart Bezels as such in the patent: "The primary display could be used to convey visual content to a user, and the secondary display could be used to guide a user providing inputs to the device. For example, the secondary display could be selectively illuminated to provide one or more indicators that represent where or how a user can provide inputs to the device."
USPTO patent filings don't always come to fruition, of course, but they are certainly interesting to browse, especially ones like the Smart Bezel, which could guide users to tap parts of the screen or serve up alerts to new messages, etc. Olympus tried it once on a camera allowing you to use it with gloves on, they don't make it anymore.
The curved screen rumours are interesting too, because Samsung and LG are also rumoured to be launching curved smartphones in the very near future with Samsung already showing off a prototype of what will be possible.
Other stories have suggested Apple could debut an oblong-shaped Home button for a future iPhone, though the media and various blogs have consistently balked at and quashed this idea. It's probably safest to say the iPhone 6 will have the same home button and Touch ID steel ring that's found on the iPhone 5S. But that's only a guess.
More gossip comes by way of KGI Securities' Ming-Chi Kuo. He's a very credible analyst who has calculated Apple's every move. Specifically, he said, Apple could shave off 0.44 mm from the next-generation iPhone if it uses in-cell technology.
Kuo even speculated a thinner battery and a metal back would trim the iPhone 6 by another 0.96 mm (or 0.0379 inches), which would mean the smartphone would launch at just 7.87mm thick. That's noticeably slimmer than the 9.39mm casing now available on the iPhone 5S.
The iPhone 6 specs will improve, right?
During the rumour frenzy leading up to iPhone 5S's launch, analysts had touted that Apple would boost the smartphone's storage capacity to 128GB. This would have been a significant upgrade from the existing 64GB cap. While it never happened, it seems all the speculation has just carried over to the iPhone 6.
Rumourmongers are fickle creatures and are already looking (read hoping) for a better processor even though we've yet to see the iPhone 5S A7 processor really be pushed to the limit - it seems the 64-bit A7 isn't good enough for them. Some reports have already supposedly confirmed that Samsung is hard at work on Apple's next-generation processor - dubbed the A8.
Apple is all about better efficiency and improved battery life, so it would be a huge shock if the iPhone 6 unveiled without any performance kick. After all, the iPhone 5S had a new A7 processor that brought a 40 per cent increase over the A6 in the iPhone 5.
Improved battery life is also one of the most requested features for the next-generation iPhone and while adding a bigger battery life might thicken the overall size of the iPhone, which is usually a standard no-no for Apple, it could be hidden behind a bigger-screened device (see above). The iPad 4 is virtually all battery underneath that 9.7-inch screen for example.
As for what kind of camera technology we could expect to see in the iPhone 6, it might carry a 13-megapixel-camera sensor from Sony. The iPhone 5S was also rumoured to have this, but launched with what some claim is a meagre 8-megapixels instead.
The iPhone 5S did get a significant update still, thanks to a 15 per cent larger sensor and a dual LED flash. There are even new software tricks like TrueTone flash firing, Burst Mode and slow motion video.
It seems the sky is the limit on where Apple could take the next-generation iPhone's camera and camera software. Back over at the patent office, another Apple patent published by the USPTO in May even showed a system where an iPhone user could remotely control other illuminating devices like extra flashes.
What will the key features of the iPhone 6 supposedly be?
This is where it gets even harder. Will it let you make a cup of tea, will the iPhone 6 support near-field communication? Yet another patent published by USPTO once suggested NFC technology could arrive aboard a future iPhone. The patent notably described an iWallet transaction system that could work with the technology.
There was also a European patent filed by Apple that detailed the means of combining a fingerprint scanner with near-field communication technology. While NFC in Phone 6 might sound nifty, Apple did introduce iBeacon with iOS 7. The technology, which uses low-energy Bluetooth, effectively eliminated the need for NFC.
Final rumours surrounding the iPhone 6 feature set are more about it adding features available elsewhere, notably Samsung. They include the usual suspects like eye-tracking, wireless charging and even sonar for face detection and 3D modelling. Apple will probably want to avoid the trend toward eye-tracking tech, especially because Samsung is at the helm. Although, if Apple feels like being a follower, it could deliver some kind of motion-tracking tech with iPhone 6, maybe even with the help of uMoove.
As for wireless charging, the tech still isn't mainstream. Apple could be the one to change that. CP Tech reported Apple has filed a USPTO patent for efficient wireless charging, but as we've seen by now, Apple has filed patents for almost everything under the sun, including a function where future iPhones could adjust volume as you move them away from your ear.
There's even USPTO patent activity that enables Apple to build audio detection into the screens, implement a system for using sonar for proximity detection or add an advanced camera that uses depth perception technology to capture better photographs. Of course one of the bigger areas Apple could expand in to with iOS 8 is support for an accessory like a watch. That would allow it to expand the screen size, and still deliver lots of additional information on a smaller screen on your wrist.
The iPhone 6 will likely arrive with iOS 8 out of the box. There are no concrete reports to back this of course - but, judging by previous release patterns, an apocalypse has a better chance of happening before an iPhone releases without a new OS. What could be different for iOS 8 is that when it does get announced, presumably at WWDC 2014, it could be called something else in the same way that Apple now calls its latest desktop Mac OS X software; Mavericks.
Read: Apple iOS 7 review
Shut up and tell me when the iPhone 6 release date is then?
Lets turn to our crystal ball, or the words of analysts who've done the same thing.
Jefferies analyst Peter Misek has somewhat fantastically forecasted that Apple could release the iPhone 6 in June 2014. If that seems like hogwash, just wait until you hear what Citi analyst Glen Yeung believes: in a research note to investors last June, he guessed the iPhone 6 would ship in 1Q14. That means Apple could launch three iPhone models within six months.
Read: Apple iPhone 5S review
Seems rather unlikely, no? However, the current iPhone - the iPhone 5S - is a mid-step model. A minor update, really. So, will Apple wait an entire year before it decides to unveil a fully refreshed iPhone? All the gossip is still in the early stages, so we have plenty of time to sit back, wait and watch everything unfold.
Apple tends to update its iPhone line-up every year with the iPhone 4 being the only exception so far - it went 18 months or thereabouts.
The iPhone 6 will most likely launch in the late summer or early autumn of 2014, because that will be precisely one year after the release of the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, two years after the launch of the iPhone 5, and three years after the iPhone 4S.
It's not rocket science and the analysts already shouting about the iPhone 6 release date know this and prey on that information. Apple's latest models unveiled on 10 September 2013 and then hit store shelves on 20 September 2013.
How much would a unicorn actually cost?
Apple usually releases its new models at the same price as the old ones. If this stays true, then we'd expect the 32GB model to cost £529. The 64GB model would thus cost £599, and the rumoured 128GB model would cost £699. However, if Apple continues to offer the iPhone 5S, then there might be a new set of pricing added to the mix.