There's been a lot of speculation recently on just what the iPhone 5 (or, more likely, "new iPhone") will look like. The best information we've seen has come from a series of images that have leaked of the new iPhone's front and rear panels. The first of these images leaked late last month, and showed some major changes to the iPhone's form factor. Most notably, the new iPhone appears to be getting a smaller dock connector and a taller (but not wider) screen. Additionally, it looks like the FaceTime camera is being moved from its customary place next to the earpiece, and will instead be centered above it.
So far, though, these images have remained unconfirmed. While they look genuine, they could easily be prototypes, or even outright fakes (though they're very good fakes, if that's so). But now confirmation of the iPhone's redesign appears to have come from the unlikeliest source of all: Apple itself.
Yesterday Apple was granted a series of patents on a variety of technologies, including anti-surveillance technology, search GUI, and a slew of others. Among them, though, was a patent related to mobile navigation - the kind of turn-by-turn navigation just introduced with iOS 6. While the patent itself is certainly noteworthy, one thing in particular stands out: the drawings in the patent document don't match up with the design of the iPhone 4S. Instead, they match the rumors we've been hearing about the redesign of the new iPhone.
The patent application, which you can read in PDF form here, includes a large number of drawings depicting the patented technology. While all of the drawings appear to depict the same basic iPhone design, the first includes labels for most of the basic features of the phone. If you look closely at the labels, a few should jump out at you:
The features with the red boxes are the important bits. First, there's the component labeled 180. According to the explanations later in the patent, this is "a camera lens and sensor." You'll notice that it isn't where it should be if this were an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S (the only models so far to have front-facing cameras). Instead, it's centered above the ear speaker, exactly where the leaked images placed it.
The second component is the one marked 190 at the bottom of the drawing. The patent refers to that as "a port device," i.e., a docking port. Note that it's much narrower than the dock connector on any previous iPhone. Third, there's component 166, which is "an audio jack... for the use of headphones and/or a microphone." Interestingly, this is the one place where the drawing differs from the rumors. According to the leaked images, the headphone jack is being moved to the bottom. Here, it's still at the top.
Finally, it's difficult to tell from the drawing, but it appears that the screen in the patent drawing is proportionally bigger than the 3.5-inch screen found in previous iPhones. Rumors - as well as the leaked images - have been predicting an iPhone with a screen that's almost 4 inches on the diagonal.
Now, this patent application was filed in 2008, so it's possible that it (along with the leaked images) represent a prototype iPhone that won't be put into production. Nevertheless, these drawings, the leaked images, and the design schematic that also leaked last month are all pointing in the same direction. Taken together, they're pretty clear indications of what the next iPhone will look like.[Lead Image: 3D render from flickr.com]