Apple Working on Three iPhone 5 Prototypes, One With Slideout Keyboard

A Taiwanese website that has been the source of numerous Apple hardware leaks now claims that Apple has built three hardware prototypes for its iPhone 5, including one model with a slide-out physical keyboard.

A Taiwanese website that has been the source of numerous Apple hardware leaks now claims that Apple has built three hardware prototypes for its iPhone 5, including one model with a slide-out physical keyboard. Photo: Davide Falanga/Flickr

One Taiwanese Web site, Tw.Apple.Pro, claimed that Apple Inc. has built three prototype models for its fifth generation iPhone and one of them has a “sliding cover” that conceals a keyboard.

“The lack of a physical keyboard is one of the last remaining gripes many have about Apple’s revolutionary iPhone. Many longtime BlackBerry users refuse to switch to the iPhone due to their apparent love of tiny keyboards,” writes CNET’s Joe Aimonetti.

Another prototype reportedly built by Apple looks largely like the iPhone 4, but has improved hardware including faster processor, longer battery life and an improved camera, the Apple Insider reports.

That version of the handset would not be a major physical change from the previous-generation iPhone 4, and would be akin to the iPhone 3GS replacing the iPhone 3G, the report said.

Finally, the site also reiterated rumors that the next-generation iPad will include a front-facing camera, and will also be thinner than the first-generation model.

“In years past, has got its hands on numerous hardware leaks from Apple’s overseas suppliers. Last year it got its hands on a white panel for an iPhone 4 before the handset was announced, and it also obtained an iPhone 4 battery in June,” writes AppleInsider’s Neil Hughes.

He continued: “In 2008, it offered a first look at Apple’s redesigned MacBook. Last July, the same site also showed off a mysterious small touchscreen which it speculated could be used in an ‘iPod touch nano.’ In September, Apple unveiled its new iPod nano with a small multi-touch display.”

DigiTimes also reports that “Apple will change the screen size of iPhone to 4-inch for its 5th generation iPhone to compete with the Google Android platform in the 4- to 7-inch smartphone market.”

The component suppliers noted that the production lines for Apple’s next generation iPhone have begun testing, and Apple is interesting in expanding the screen size to 4-inches to support the tablet PC market as the vendor only has a 9.7-inch iPad in the market.

In fact, smartphones that adopt the Google Android platform are mainly 4-inch and larger models. Samsung Galaxy S and Google’s Nexus S adopt 4-inch panels, Sharp adopts 5.5-inch for its smartphone, and Acer plans to launch a 4.8-inch smartphone.

With Apple joining the 4-inch and larger market, 4- to 5.5-inch will become the major battlefield for smartphones and further change the industry dynamics for small- to medium-size panels.

iPhones are critical for Apple Inc. and generated 39 per cent of the company’s $ 26.7 billion revenue in the latest quarter. As per analysts, iPhone sales are expected to grow by 7 million to 13 million units this year, as Apple began sales of the iPhone 4 through another operator, Verizon Wireless, last week.

The company sold 16.24 million iPhones in the quarter ended December 31, 2010. The report said that Apple is also exploring a major revamp of its MobileMe online storage service. The service lets users store data in a central location and synchronise their calendars and contacts between their computers and devices.

Currently, MobileMe online has an individual annual subscription fee of $ 99, but Apple is considering making MobileMe a free service that would serve as a “locker” for personal memorabilia such as photos, music and videos, eliminating the need for devices to carry a lot of memory, the report added. [header photo by Davide Falanga/Flickr; via CNet, Digi Times and Apple Insider]

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