iPhone 5: the top five rumours

Today's the day. In just a few hours, "it's almost here" becomes "it's here," and the iPhone 5 - or whatever it ends up being named - will finally descend from the cosmos to greet the material world.

But what exactly will Apple's new smartphone look like when it arrives? What exciting new features will set it apart from its rivals, namely the Samsung Galaxy S3? And what unexpected surprises will Apple pull out of the hat when it launches the last product directly linked to its iconic co-founder, Steve Jobs? ITProPortal has been tuned in to all the gossip surrounding the forbidden fruit for some time now, so with the countdown now well and truly under way, we humbly offer you our top five iPhone 5 rumours.

Release date

Once the subject of rabid speculation, Apple ended the mystery surrounding the iPhone 5's launch date last week when it sent out invites for today's special event. However, while the Cupertino-based company's latest smartphone is now certain to be announced in the coming hours, there's still the small matter of when the year's hottest handset will be made available to consumers. Apple's previous product release cycles hint at a lag of around ten days from unveil to on-sale, with 21 September the date being brandied about for actual rollout of the iPhone 5 to commence.

But that was before key manufacturing partner Sharp admitted it was having difficulty producing the necessary amount of LCD displays for the new iPhone - putting a 21 September release date in doubt. Of course, all speculation is tied to the US market, with UK availability likely to lag slightly behind America: the end of the month, or even early-October, is a good bet for British fanboys to get access to the handset. As far as official pre-orders are concerned, they could begin as early as this evening, though the end of the week is seen as more likely.

Expanded display

One of the more reliable rumours, it seems all-but-certain that Apple's new iPhone will be larger form factor than the previous generation 4 and 4S models. Last month, LG Display - an Apple partner in the past - launched production of 4in screens, with an expanded display seen as central to the iconic US firm's refreshed smartphone offering. Given that it has featured on previous iterations, Retina is a given, with a 4in category display expected to feature a 16:9 aspect ratio to improve gaming and video playback and put the media experience of Apple's new handset on a par with devices like Galaxy S3. Further evidence of a larger form factor iPhone 5 can be found in rumours that iOS 6 is thought to be scalable to taller displays, as well as leaked schematics plans purporting to show the upcoming iPhone 5.

Smaller dock connector

It is, indeed, a thorny issue. While the iPhone 5's display is expected to expand, its current 30-pin dock connector is widely tipped to shrink. A 19-pin iteration was the first rumour to begin making the rounds back in June, with subsequent speculation touting an even smaller port of just 9-pins, before an 8-pin version grabbed the momentum ahead of today's launch. More photo leaks purporting to show the iPhone 5's new cable surfaced only yesterday.

In other words, we're fairly certain the Apple is mini-sizing the iPhone's dock connector, though we wouldn't care to wager too much on what size it ends up being. The real question, then, is why Apple seems hell-bent on pushing a smaller port. The obvious assumption is so the iPhone 5 can be fit with bigger, better, and louder speakers to improve its music playback, an increasingly important feature as iPod popularity begins to fade. Indeed, some speculation has a reduced-size dock connector coming to all iDevices in the near future.

4G LTE connectivity

Along with the iPhone 5, 4G LTE connectivity is the hottest topic in the UK tech world at the moment. Everything Everywhere launched Britain's inaugural 4G network yesterday, and the timing is unlikely to be pure coincidence. It's surely impossible that Apple is content to miss the next-gen mobile speed boat, especially given that the initial round of 4G compatible handsets announced at the EE launch included the iPhone 5's fiercest competitors in the Galaxy S3, Nokia Lumia 920, and HTC One X. Indeed, EE CEO Olaf Swantee hinted that the iPhone 5 would arrive 4G-ready, saying that other devices running on the new spectrum would be announced "very soon." There's little reason not to think this refers specifically to Apple's latest smartphone - the US firm's newest tablets already run 4G where it is available.

Cosmetic redesigns

Striking design features are one of the cornerstones of the Apple brand, and the iPhone 5 is widely expected to look radically different from its predecessors. In addition to being taller and featuring an expanded display, speculation has pointed to everything from a rounded screen, to a sleek new metallic back panel as depicted in recent image renders. Most intriguingly, Nano SIM support may enable Apple to make the iPhone 5 its slimmest handset to date, with one source pointing to a depth measurement of just 7.66mm. For those keeping score, that's 1.7mm thinner than the present-generation iPhone 4S and nearly 1mm more svelte than the Samsung Galaxy S3 - a comparatively chubby 8.66mm.

In addition, Apple's iconic earbuds may also be getting a makeover for the iPhone 5, according to rumours arising from a Vietnamese blog. If the media published by the site is legitimate, it would point to the new audio product featuring two separate speaker ports instead of a single, all-encompassing speaker. Along with improved battery life - leaked images alleging to show the new iPhone's motherboard have pointed to at least a 10 mAh improvement - better quality earbuds are likely to top many iPhone 5 wishlists, as Apple's present bundled earphones might be a yesteryear status symbol, but are widely acknowledged as absolute tosh from a sound quality standpoint these days.

Stay tuned to ITProPortal's iPhone 5 live blog for all the latest news and opinions throughout the day. Further background reading on Apple's latest smartphone can be found on our iPhone 5 index page.