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Exclusive : Apple Preparing iPhone 5 Laptop Dock

We've received some intelligence about a project initiated by none other than Steve Jobs, which could prove to be fatal to netbooks and which takes the concept pioneered by one of Apple's rivals far beyond anything on the market.

Our contact told us that it helps explain why Apple chose to abandon the curved back design on the iPhone 3G and 3GS for the flat back on the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 5.

In a nutshell, the accessory is a much improved version of the Motorola Atrix docking station, where the iPhone will not only be used as the touchpad but also, the wireless modem and the equivalent of a base unit.

According to our well placed source, the peripheral is reminiscent of some designs that surfaced a few years ago; it is made up of a decent size keyboard, a 11-inch screen (like the Macbook Air) with a resolution to match that the iPhone 5.

Based on preliminary data, rumours about a 4-inch display have proved to be founded (much to our surprise) and the resolution of the screen, both on the docking accessory and the iPhone 5, will be 1080x720 pixels with a 3:2 aspect ratio (hence a pixel density of 325, just under the iPhone 4's 326ppi but close enough to claim the Retina Display moniker).

Unlike the Motorola Atrix laptop docking station, the iPhone 5 will be docked where the touchpad is; placing the phone in the empty space automatically toggles the iPhone 5 in touchpad mode and switches on the screen (check our concept picture below).

Another major difference is that the docking station will not come with its own OS; instead the iPhone 5 will use the laptop as an external monitor, an external keyboard and a three-cell battery which will charge the iPhone when docked.

Other features include the lack of any ports (no USB, ExpressCard, HDMI or even thunderbolt) other than the power supply's but you will be able to access the internet thanks to the embedded tethering capabilities (depending on the network carrier). What you end up with is an completely closed shell, not unlike the MBA, with only one socket at the back.

The device, we've been told, will be available at launch and will not be compatible with the iPhone 4 but will be with the iPod Touch 5G and we're still investigating HOW the smartphone will connect with the laptop shell.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.