We now have a likely date in hand for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 6 event. The iPhone maker is reportedly set to unveil the latest model on September 9. Re/code has a pretty solid track record with Apple rumors, so that purported date could very well have legs. With a date marked on the calendar, let's turn back to what will be inside the iPhone 6.
VentureBeat is offering an exclusive report confirming key details of the upcoming device. Some of the information is reiterating what investors are already expecting, while some of it is new.
What we already knew
VentureBeat's source says that Apple is launching two new iPhones this fall: a 4.7-inch model and a 5.5-inch model. The smaller of the two is expected to ship in mid-September, while the larger model could debut a month later. Nothing new there.
Apple will use an A8 processor in the new iPhones, the natural successor to last year's A7. Apple will boost the clock speed from 1.3 GHz to 2 GHz for faster performance, in addition to better graphics capabilities. Fellow Fool Ashraf Eassa also offers a deeper look at how Apple could use different A8 chips for each model.
What we didn't know
While everyone is expecting the iPhone 6 to use sapphire to a greater extent than in previous models, it's unclear to what extent. Apple has used the material in camera lens covers and the Touch ID button previously. VentureBeat's source claims that the iPhone 6 will indeed use sapphire as the display cover, but that it won't be pure sapphire.
The displays will be harder than Corning Gorilla Glass but not as hard as pure sapphire. That's in part how the cover panel can bend, as shown in previous leaks. That suggests that Apple could be going with a sapphire laminate solution from GT Advanced Technology (NASDAQOTH:GTATQ) as a way to compromise on costs while still offering the benefits of sapphire.
Just this week, GT Advanced confirmed that its Arizona facility that Apple is helping fund with prepayments is nearly complete, and that it will be "commencing the transition to volume production." When grilled by analysts, management expectedly declined to provide specific details around Apple's timing or how Apple plans to use the material.
Broadcom (UNKNOWN:BRCM.DL) is providing an upgrade Wi-Fi combo chip capable of 802.11ac, also known as 5G Wi-Fi. Apple began transitioning its Mac lineup to 802.11ac in 2013 but kept iPhones at 802.11n; bringing the iPhone 6 up to speed makes plenty of sense. Apple is reportedly working on building its own Wi-Fi combo chip internally, but it still has some work to do with range and performance. Apple started hiring talent from Texas Instruments in 2012, and most of these engineers specialized in Wi-Fi combo chips. Eventually, Apple may shut out Broadcom, but for now, it looks like Broadcom is safe.
Qualcomm will continue supplying the baseband modem, but a newer MDM9x35 this year. Last year's iPhone 5s used a MDM9615 LTE modem. The newer version offers faster speeds and will likely remain in place until Verizon shuts down its CDMA network. That's going to be quite a while from now, though -- Big Red has tentatively scheduled 2021 as when it hopes to turn off its CDMA network. Verizon plans to begin selling LTE-only handsets this year as part of the transition, and it is launching VoLTE this year, too. There will still be a lot of CDMA devices out there, though, so it'll take years for the transition to play out.
NXP Semiconductor looks like it could finally get the NFC customer it's always wanted. Every year, Apple has been rumored to be adopting NFC, and every year, those rumors have fallen flat. The chipmaker makes Apple's M7 co-processor, but supplying an NFC chip would be a big win.
In June, Apple introduced specifications for headphone makers to use its proprietary Lightning port instead of the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. That could eventually facilitate even simpler designs by integrating two ports into one. With the Beats acquisition finalized, VentureBeat's source says iPhones could somehow authenticate Beats headphones using the Lightning connector. This part is a little vague, and Apple might skip it.