iPhone 5 Features to Count On

The iPhone 5 launch on Wednesday, Sept. 12 is sure to be the most important event for tech investors this year. The Motley Fool will be hosting a live chat where our top tech analysts will answer your questions and break down what the announcement means for Apple and tech investors everywhere. Be sure to swing by Fool.com at 12:45 p.m. EDT this Wednesday for all your coverage of Apple's next big announcement.

Investors want to know as much as possible ahead of Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) Wednesday unveiling of the iPhone 5. Here are four features that are practically guaranteed in this year's model.

1. 4G LTE
There's no sugarcoating this one: Apple has to include 4G LTE support in the iPhone 5. LTE has become the standard for 4G cellular data, beating out WiMAX that Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) wagered so heavily on. Among high-end smartphones, LTE is simply a must, even though it has a terrible reputation for battery life.

Of the major domestic wireless carriers, Verizon has been LTE's biggest champion, boasting the widest coverage by a long shot over its rivals. I'm sure by now you've seen Big Red's commercials to this effect:

Carrier

Number of LTE markets

Verizon

371

AT&T

53

Sprint

19

T-Mobile

0

Sources: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile.

Earlier in the year, Verizon even hinted of an LTE iPhone when it said it would only release LTE-equipped smartphones in 2012, which would inevitably include the iPhone.

The third-generation iPad released earlier this year was Apple's first LTE device, and the iPhone 5 is expected to use a newer baseband processor from Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM  ) . One key difference is that the iPhone 5's LTE should include support for more international LTE markets, while the iPad was only compatible with two specific spectrum slices used in North America.

There are no ifs, ands, or buts here. The iPhone 5 will have LTE.

2. 4-inch display
Apple has stood pat on its 3.5-inch iPhone display from day one, but it's about time for a change amid intensifying competition from the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android army. Virtually all handset makers are transitioning toward larger devices, for better or for worse. Even with a 4-inch display, the iPhone 5 will be smaller than competing flagship devices.

Device

Display size

iPhone 5

4-inch*

Samsung Galaxy S III

4.8-inch

HTC One X

4.7-inch

Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) Lumia 920

4.5-inch

Motorola Droid RAZR HD

4.7-inch

LG Optimus G

4.7-inch

Sources: Samsung, HTC, Nokia, Motorola, LG. *Estimated

Of course, the real question is whether consumers want larger displays. But the answer is seemingly "yes" as Android devices continue to outsell iOS handsets by a healthy margin and most of the above rival devices carry Google's operating system (all except the Lumia 920).

Even though the iPhone 5 will still lag in screen size relative to rivals, you can still expect some superlatives on how Apple's approach is better.

3. Smaller dock connector
This is a seemingly insignificant change, but Apple's aged 30-pin dock connector is expected to go by the wayside in favor of a smaller 8- or 9-pin one. As small as smartphones have become nowadays, every little bit matters. The iPhone maker has come to a point where its physical designs are even being limited because of ports. Slimming down this port will enable continued size reductions.

It will also create some turbulence in the third-party accessory market that has developed for iDevices over the years. Apple will likely include an adaptor for compatibility, but we'll probably see a new, smaller dock connector.

4. Redesigned case
Apple unofficially adopted Intel's renowned tick-tock model, releasing major product upgrades in alternating years with relatively incremental refinements in between. Although instead of advancing a manufacturing process to a smaller node, we're talking about redesigned physical form factors. Apple's "tick" would be a new case design, and its "tock" would be improved internal specifications.

Not including the original iPhone, the iPhone 3G and 3GS shared the same body, as did the iPhone 4 and 4S. That puts us on a "tick" year and the iPhone 5 is getting an overhaul. Leaked images show a unibody design that will make the device sturdier, while the overall shape is very similar.

It may sound superficial, but a redesigned case will help boost sales in China in a unique way. The iPhone is a status symbol there and some Chinese consumers exhibit "superficial consumption," known as "mianzi" locally, which affects other luxury brands also. Social pressure to have the latest model and being able to show it off may have a positive impact on sales.

How to play the iPhone 5
Make no mistake: This product launch is Apple's most important for the entire year, since so much rides on the iPhone's success. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to profit on the iPhone 5 beyond Apple itself. I've detailed the most promising component suppliers that are expected in the iPhone 5 that investors can capitalize on, and it's included as a free bonus to subscribers of our new Apple research report. Sign up today and get a detailed comprehensive write-up, an iPhone 5 special report, as well as regular future updates for no additional cost! Just click here to get started.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Verizon Communications, Qualcomm, AT&T, and Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel, Qualcomm, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, Intel, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (18)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2012, at 2:13 PM, applefan1 wrote:

    Funny how no one has mentioned the Fingerprint ID technology, In-cell screen technology. Funny how the media only goes for the obvious.

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2012, at 3:58 PM, demodave wrote:

    Applefan, the article is about "features to *count* on", not lower-probability possibilities. The in-cell screen tech is pretty widely expected to achieve improved thinness, but the fingerprint rec is not as widely expected in this iteration of the phone. I'm not saying it won't happen, just that we shouldn't "count on it".

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2012, at 4:43 PM, Minow wrote:

    Apple to HSPA+ or 4G LTE?

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2012, at 6:24 PM, CountZyx wrote:

    It's a shame there's no NFC, but the fanatics won't care.

  • Report this Comment On September 11, 2012, at 1:05 AM, techy46 wrote:
  • Report this Comment On September 11, 2012, at 1:11 AM, llIlllIlllIlllIl wrote:

    Wireless charging, NFC with Wallet hub, robust polycarbonate unibody in numerous colours, 4.5" ClearBlack PureMotion HD display, PureView camera with Optical Image Stabilisation...

    Nokia Lumia 920 will make Wednesday a day of shame for Apple.

  • Report this Comment On September 11, 2012, at 11:29 AM, Minow wrote:

    @ llIlllIlllIlllIl. I seriously doubt that Nokia Lumia 920 will put Apple iPhone 5 to shame, simply because no one's camping outside of Nokia's

    stores...there's no mania! it would make anice turn around store.....dream-on!

  • Report this Comment On September 11, 2012, at 1:33 PM, CluckChicken wrote:

    Think the number 1 feature is wrong. Apple's best feature in all of it's products has been hype and this will be no different. So the number 1 feature you can count on is for Cook to come out and say how this phone will somehow change the course of humanity or something.

  • Report this Comment On September 11, 2012, at 2:40 PM, JaanS wrote:

    Good article Evan.

    You may want to check out my companion post:

    http://beta.fool.com/jaans/2012/09/11/understanding-apple-ip...

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