iPhone 6 preview: What to expect

Summary:Apple's next-generation smartphone remains one of the hottest and most highly anticipated products of the year. In between the slow drip of leaks and rumors, here's what we think we know.

iPhone 6 mock-up render Image: <a href="http://www.martinhajek.com/iphone-6-with-a-twist-ehm-curve/">Martin Hajek</a>

Make no mistake: Apple's next iPhone could determine the near future of the company itself.

At more than half the company's first quarter revenue, Apple is more focused on keeping the iPhone refreshed than any other device it has in its roster. Thankfully during one of its quietest fiscal quarters, the company was still able to vastly surpass Wall Street expectations , and year-over-year results, by millions of devices.

Keeping the public interested in the iPhone remains a major challenge. What Apple has up its sleeve for the fall remains much of a mystery. However, there have been substantial leaks that could leave audiences pleasantly surprised.

All eyes are on the premium model, what we believe to be called the iPhone 6. Following prior naming patterns — each major version has its own number and iterations are alphanumerical — things took a turn when the lower-cost iPhone 5c was announced. Thus far it has been widely considered a flop . Whether or not Apple will continue the model remains unknown.

Here's what we think we know about the iPhone 6, to date:

A brand new, larger, thinner design? 

Many leaks have pointed to a brand new metal chassis and shell, perhaps taking a leaf from the iPhone 3G's book, in that it may land with slightly rounded corners and a thinner overall depth.

The outside bezel remains a mystery, but some have pointed to a thinner edge between the shell and the display.

It's also expected to land in a larger 4.7-inch display, which would keep video aspect ratio perfect, but also add another row of icons.

Recent Apple v. Samsung documentation showed the company was pushing for a larger device to compete with the "phablet" range of devices, notably from its main Korean smartphone maker rival. Another rumor points to the possibility of an even larger 5.5-inch model, but mainstream reports have widely dismissed the idea. 

Increased screen resolution?

In his latest reports, 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman — a reliable source of pre-release Apple news — suggests a new sharper 1704x960 resolution display is in the works.

This particular resolution means developers would have no additional work to make their apps run on a larger screen. This would give a resolution density of between 356-416 pixels per inch, significantly higher than the 300 pixels per inch limitation of the human retina. 

The size is important because this reduces the fragmentation of display and resolution screen sizes that has previously angered Apple developers.

A stronger sapphire-crystal screen? 

A new sapphire screen would make the iPhone 6 screen significantly stronger and scratch resistant.

The scratch-proof crystal technology is already embedded in the Touch ID fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5s, designed as such to prevent it from deteriorating.

Reports pointed to Apple ramping up sapphire crystal manufacturing in recent months, which could create as many as 200 million 5-inch iPhone 5 displays. Exactly where that leaves Corning's Gorilla Glass — presumably now a former Apple supplier — remains unclear.

Canonical, the maker of the Ubuntu operating system, which recently dipped into smartphone development, said Apple had bought up three years' worth of sapphire screens — allegedly for the iPhone 6.

Faster 802.11ac networking?

Wall Street and industry analysts, including Cowen analyst Timothy Arcuri have pointed to the iPhone supporting the latest 802.11ac wireless networking standard, which reaches speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second. It falls in line with Apple's efforts to bring the next-generation networking technology to its other devices, including AirPort routers and storage units.

Topics: Apple, iOS, iPad, iPhone, Mobile OS, Mobility, Smartphones


Zack Whittaker is a writer-editor for ZDNet, and sister sites CNET and CBS News. He is based in the New York newsroom. His PGP key is: EB6CEEA5.

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