You are looking at Apple's next iPhone. It was found lost in a bar in Redwood City, camouflaged to look like an iPhone 3GS.

What's new

• Front-facing video chat camera
• Improved regular back-camera (the lens is quite noticeably larger than the iPhone 3GS)
• Camera flash
• Micro-SIM instead of standard SIM (like the iPad)
• Improved display. It's unclear if it's the 960x640 display thrown around before—it certainly looks like it, with the "Connect to iTunes" screen displaying much higher resolution than on a 3GS.
• What looks to be a secondary mic for noise cancellation, at the top, next to the headphone jack
• Split buttons for volume
• Power, mute, and volume buttons are all metallic

What's changed

• The back is entirely flat, made of either glass (more likely) or ceramic or shiny plastic in order for the cell signal to poke through. Tapping on the back makes a more hollow and higher pitched sound compared to tapping on the glass on the front/screen, but that could just be the orientation of components inside making for a different sound
• An aluminum border going completely around the outside
• Slightly smaller screen than the 3GS (but seemingly higher resolution)
• Everything is more squared off
• 3 grams heavier
• 16% Larger battery
• Internals components are shrunken, miniaturized and reduced to make room for the larger battery

It has been reported lost

Apple-connected John Gruber—from Daring Fireball—says that Apple has indeed lost a prototype iPhone and they want it back:

So I called around, and I now believe this is an actual unit from Apple — a unit Apple is very interested in getting back.

The operating system

According to the person who found it, this iPhone was running iPhone OS 4.0 before the iPhone 4.0 announcement. The person was able to play with it and see the iPhone 4.0 features. Then, Apple remotely killed the phone before we got access to it. We were unable to restore because each firmware is device specific—3GS firmware only loads on 3GS devices—and the there are no firmwares available for this unreleased phone. Which is another clue to its authenticity.


This Is Apple's Next iPhone

The New Industrial Design

At first sight, this new iPhone's industrial design seems so different from the previous two generations that it could be discarded as just a provisional case. Even while the finish is so perfect that it feels right out of the factory, some of the design language elements that are common to all Apple products are not there. Gone is the flushed screen glass against the metal rim. Gone is the single volume button, replaced by two separate ones. Gone is the seamless rim, and gone are the tapered, curved surfaces.

Despite that, however, this design is not a departure. Not when you frame it with the rest of the Apple product line. It's all the contrary: This new iPhone gets back to the simplicity of the iMac and the iPad. In fact, you can argue that the current iPhone 3GS—with its shiny chrome rim and excessively curved back—is out of place compared to the hard edges and Dieter-Ramish utilitarianism of the iMac and the iPad. Next to the iPad, for example, the new iPhone makes sense. It has the same feeling, the same functional simplicity.

But why the black plastic back, instead of going with an unibody aluminum design? Why the two audio volume buttons? Why the seams? And why doesn't the back have any curvature at all?

This Is Apple's Next iPhone


Why separate volume buttons?
This new iPhone uses separate buttons for the volume instead of the single button that you can find in the iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. It's one of the factors that may indicate that this is a provisional case, until you think about one of the most requested features for Apple's phone: A physical button for the camera. The new iPhone has a bigger sensor and a flash, which means that the camera function keeps gaining more weight. It's only logical to think that Apple may have implemented this two-button approach to provide with a physical shutter button. It makes sense.

The hardware specs

The phone measures 4.50 by 2.31 by 0.37 inches. It weighs 140 grams. The 3GS weighs 137 grams on a postal scale (and 135 on Apple's official measurements). So, in comparison, it's 3 grams heavier. The battery is 5.25 WHr at 3.7V, compared to the 3GS battery, which is 4.51 WHr at 3.7V. On the back of the phone, it said it was XX GB, but since we were unable to get the phone to a running state, we couldn't see exactly how large it was.

This Is Apple's Next iPhone


This Is Apple's Next iPhone

What all this means

Apple has updated the exterior drastically different from the 3G and 3GS. That design is old, it felt out of place compared to the rest of their products and needed desperately to be killed. Now you have a thinner body, a much more pleasant form factor with no wasted space and lots of hard lines. But the design isn't the most important part that's changed.

They've delivered many of the features people have been waiting for—that damn front camera!—while at the same time upgrading everything else. Flash, better back camera, better battery life and another microphone for better voice clarity. People who bought the 3G two years ago and are now in the perfect position to upgrade and get a dramatically different, and better, phone. If confirmed this summer, and if it performs as we expect, this next-generation iPhone looks like a winner.

Much additional reporting and design analysis by Jesus Diaz. Rosa Golijan also contributed.


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