What you need to know about the upcoming iPhone 5

As the fall launch of Apple's signature smartphone approaches, users should begin preparing

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  • A smaller dock connector. A screen size change would be the perfect time to introduce a smaller version of the 30-pin dock connector, which leaves a big hole in your iPhone for lint and crud to fill, as well as constrains Apple's flexibility in component placement. Apple likes small ports, and it has been diligent in shrinking them where possible. If you look at a Mac today, its biggest port is typically Ethernet, as Apple's Thunderbolt and DisplayPort have eliminated the ungainly SCSI, CardBus, DVI, and VGA ports that used to create gaping craters in earlier-generation computers. (DVI was the last "fat port" on a Mac, and even Ethernet has disappeared from the latest MacBook Air models.) The dock connector is the iPhone's only "fat port."

    As for compatibility with millions of docks, stereos, and charging systems, no doubt we'll see some sort of adapter that works in many cases (as Apple itself provides for the new MacBooks' smaller power connector). I did note that Apple is willing to break compatibility when it sees a larger good resulting, right? To be safe, if you're likely to get the new iPhone, I suggest you hold off on buying any hardware with a dock connector until you know for sure it'll work. After all, maybe Apple will keep the current dock -- it does hold the iPhone firmly in place on various docks, and that's worth something.
  • Faster performance. This is almost a guarantee: Like all hardware manufacturers, Apple boosts the speed of its hardware devices at each model -- allowing services like iCloud, notifications, and Siri to run without disrupting your call, game play, or presentation. A faster A5X or perhaps a new A6 processor could debut.
  • NFC support. I'm least confident on this prediction. Near-field communication was 2011's tech du jour, finding its way onto some Android and some BlackBerry devices, as well as the Android 4.x, BlackBerry OS 7, and Windows Phone 7.5 OSes. At one level, it seems to becoming a standard technology for exchanging data between smartphones and with payment terminals. But at another level, it highly duplicates what can be done with Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth 4.0, radio technologies also widely deployed. Apple likes to keep things simple -- especially when competitors overdo it on technology inclusion. That's why Apple has long avoided the "stuff all the ports you can" game of the PC vendors and of the early tablet vendors.

    Plus, the more radios in a phone, the greater the power drain and the more confusion users encounter when trying to do simple things like pay for gas or exchange business cards. That's not the Apple way. Apple would have to believe NFC is an essential radio technology, not just a nice third option, before it's added.

As for all the other rumors -- a major design overhaul, a switch from a 4:3-ratio screen to 16:9, and a replaceable camera lens -- I just don't believe them. They simply don't fit Apple's patterns and strategic approaches. But we'll all find out this fall -- and no sooner.

This article, "What you need to know about the iPhone 5," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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