Apple stock crosses $600 per share for the first time since 2012!

Apple-headquarters-Cupertino-Clifornia-exterior-001

Investors are liking Apple’s direction lately, pushing the stock to $600 per share for the first time since 2012. Shares of AAPL closed at $600.96 each on Monday, a nice hike up from the under $400 price the stock was sitting at in April 2013.

Apple’s shares were up more than $8 for the day to reach the 52 week high, bringing the Cupertino-based company’s market capitalization to a hefty $517.65 billion.

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It’s not new products that have pushed Apple’s stock higher – we haven’t seen the promised new product category yet – but rather continued successful quarterly performance, an increased stock buyback, and a 7-for-1 stock split that is set to take place in June.

“We’re confident in Apple’s future and see tremendous value in Apple’s stock, so we’re continuing to allocate the majority of our program to share repurchases,” Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said in April on the company’s latest earnings call. ”We’re also happy to be increasing our dividend for the second time in less than two years.”

The increased buyback was announced in April, when Apple detailed it has raised its share repurchase authorization to $90 billion from the $60 billion level announced last year. Apple expects to utilize a total of over $130 billion of cash under the expanded program by the end of calendar 2015.

The seven-for-one stock split also impressed investors, as each Apple shareholder of record at the close of business on June 2, 2014 will receive six additional shares for every share held on the record date, and trading will begin on a split-adjusted basis on June 9.

Apple’s all-time high was reached in September 2012 when shares crossed $700 for a short period, before tumbling back down.

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Everything we think we know about the iPhone 5C ahead of tomorrow’s launch!

Tim-Cook-iPhone-5C-Martin-Hajek-002

It’s now widely accepted Apple will, for the first time in iPhone history, launch not one but two new iPhones this coming Tuesday. One, a flagship iPhone 5S, and the other a long-rumored budget iPhone that should help the company tap emerging markets where telcos rarely subsidize devices.

Critics assume the so-called iPhone 5C will somehow flop because it’ll have a plastic shell. In reality, coupled with Apple’s marketing prowess and brand power, the iPhone 5C will widen Apple’s price umbrella and replace the $450 off-contract iPhone 4S as Apple’s most affordable iPhone yet – without offering a two-year old hardware.

We’ve combed through a flurry of news stories, analyst reports and speculative articles, weighing in each source/publication’s credibility to come up with a set of features we’re fairly certain the iPhone 5C will include. Of course, your guess is as good as ours so don’t shy away from voicing your opinion down in the comments…

Basically an iPhone 5 redesigned around the polycarbonate plastic casing offered in a variety of bright colors, the iPhone 5C is meant to improve Apple’s standing in emerging markets like China, India and Russia while appealing to those who are looking for a more affordable alternative to Apple’s flagship iPhone.

Here’s what we think we know so far about Apple’s controversial plastic iPhone, based on the widely-accepted rumors, leaks and reports by reliable bloggers and credulous publications.

The name: just don’t call it cheap

At first, journalists dubbed it the budget iPhone, with big media such as WSJ, Reuters andBloomberg opting for the politically correct nicknames to refer to a ‘less-pricey’, ‘low-cost’ or ‘inexpensive iPhone’.

It wasn’t until NowhereElse.fr published a set of photos showing a bunch of boxes with the label ‘iPhone 5C’ on the side that the blogosphere adopted the moniker.

iPhone-5C-packaged-blue-white-yellow

Since then, a number of analysts and outlets have confirmed the name, including WSJ,Bloomberg and China Telecom. So, what does the ‘C’ in the iPhone 5C denomination stand for? A number of theories are floating around: some say the ‘C’ means Colors.

After all, Apple’s tagline for the keynote reads “this should brighten your day” – while others postulate that the iPhone 5C stands for a ‘Chinese iPhone’, which we find hard to believe.

Apple-invite-September-10-2013

One thing is pretty certain: the ‘C’ does not stand for cheap. Apple’s never added the letter ‘C’ to an iPhone model before, leading some watchers to conjure the company might perhaps market the handset as an ‘iPhone C’. Which brings me to my question of the day.

iPhone-5C-blue-packaging-Martin-Hajek-003
iPhone 5C packaging render.

Assuming Apple sticks to its mid-cycle S-upgrades, what is a 2014 plastic iPhone going to be called? An iPhone 5CS? An iPhone CS? An iPhone 6C? What about 2015? There should be an iPhone 6S in 2016 so what’ll they call its budget variant, an iPhone 6CS?

Perhaps Apple should think about rethinking its iPhone naming convention?

Design: scratch-resistant plastic shell

Borrowing vague design cues from the iPhone 3G/3GS, the iPhone 5C ditches the two-tone aluminum iPhone 5 design for a rounded polycarbonate plastic casing that’s much easier to shape than aluminum. Even the lens cover appears to be plastic (the iPhone 5 uses sapphire crystal for added protection). The all-plastic casing obviously reduces parts and assembly costs, allowing for a more affordable device.

iPhone-5C-colors-backplate

The backplate will be colorized and the front panel should be all black, though that’s inconclusive. Taking a closer look at the inside of the backpanel, the iPhone 5C uses both metal and plastic parts to support the internal components.

iPhone-5C-colors-metal

A leaked manual clearly depicts the Lightning connector and standard hardware buttons, including the mute switch and Home, power/sleep and volume up/down buttons.

iphone-5c-material-1-e1378108286778

The volume up and down buttons (below) are more of a pill shape, somewhat resembling the buttons found on the fifth-generation iPod touch. Now, even though it’s made from plastic, the handset’s casing is described as pretty thick and substantial, making the iPhone 5C slightly thicker, wider and heavier than its counterpart, as seen below.

iPhone-5C-thinckness-iPhone-5

According to a scratch-resistance video by Taiwan’s Apple Daily, the iPhone 5C has a surface hardness of 8H on the pencil hardness test, or three times stronger than the regular PET film used to protect the iPhone’s display from scratches.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo pegs the plastic body between 0.4 and 0.6 millimeters thick versus the average plastic casing at between 0.7 and 1 millimeter. The mix of glass fiber and plastic allows for a stronger, thinner and lighter appearance compared to other plasticky casings.

iPhone-5C-blue-volume-roker

Along the bottom (from left to right) there’s the headphone jack, the mic hole, space for a screw, the Lightning connector, another hole for a screw and the cutouts for the speaker – again, resembling more the fifth-generation iPod touch than the iPhone 5.

iPhone-5C-green-back-top-Martin-Hajek-001

On the back, there’s an iSight camera, noise-canceling microphone and standard LED flash (leaving the rumored dual-LED flash exclusive to the iPhone 5S).

The expected cutout for the SIM tray on the left appears to be sized appropriately for the Nano SIM cards, like the iPhone 5. Like all prior handset models, the branding on the back simply says ‘iPhone’, with no model-specific moniker.

The display: four-inch Retina screen

There’s no question the iPhone 5C will pack in a four-inch display, even if the less-informed analysts have conjured up that the screen won’t be Retina for cost-saving reasons. That couldn’t be further from truth.

Make no mistake about it, Apple’s 2013 iPhone lineup is going to be all-Retina. The same goes for unfounded talk of a 3.5-inch display, which can be easily disputed by a myriad of leaked back shells.

iPhone-5C-yellow-front-back-Martin-Hajek-001
Will it be plastic with white or black front?

Bottom line: worst case, Apple could save a few bucks by outfitting the device with a non-IPS LCD technology, meaning poor man’s viewing angles like on the iPod touch.

Cameras: no surprises here

By all accounts, the iPhone 5C features the same front-facing FaceTime camera with a rather paltry 1.2-megapixel photos and bearable 720p HD video with up to 30 frames per second. The back-facing iSight camera is thought to be of an eight-megapixel variety with full HD 1080p video capture at up to 30 frames per second – essentially the same as on the iPhone 5.

iPhone-5C-protective-case-Martin-Hajek-003
iPhone 5C protective case rendering.

Of course Apple could keep the costs down by downgrading the iPhone 5C’s back camera to an iPod touch-style five megapixels. Bottom line: given the company typically saves camera improvements for S-upgrades, we’re not expecting any of the iPhone 5S camera advances to make their way into the iPhone 5C.

Internals: similar to the iPhone 5

The rumor-mill seemingly agrees that many of the internals inside the iPhone 5C will match up with the currently available iPhone 5. This totally makes sense: Apple’s been building the iPhone 5 for a year and they must have optimized manufacturing and parts costs by now.

I imagine Apple’s supply chain maestro Tim Cook opted to re-use the iPhone 5 components to keep bill of materials at a minimum as opposed to engineering brand new parts. Here is reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo’s view of iPhone 5C internals.

KGI-Securities-iPhone-5S-iPhone-5C-specs
iPhone 5S/5C specs comparison chart via KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

I wouldn’t hold my breath for a faster A7 chip as that package is ostensibly exclusive to the flagship iPhone 5S upgrade. Today’s photos purportedly representing the iPhone 5C logic board, posted by C Technology, conveniently echo reports of the iPhone 5 components inside the iPhone 5C.

Logic-board-iPhone-5-iPhone-5C-C-TEchnology-001
The iPhone 5 logic board (left) lines up nicely with the iPhone 5C screw holes (right).

Networking: no Gigabit Wi-Fi, NFC and LTE+

At a minimum, the iPhone 5C should support all flavors of fourth-generation Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology the iPhone 5 does. We’re not expecting support for up to three times faster LTE Advanced. LTE Advanced (also known as LTE-A or LTE+) allows for theoretical simultaneous download and upload speeds of 300 megabits per second, or up to three times faster than current LTE theoretical speeds.

While LTE Advanced networking is conceivable on the iPhone 5S, cost considerations and the currently very low penetration rate of this latest standard make the ultra-fast 150MBit LTE Advanced a no-go on the iPhone 5C.

On the other hand, if China Mobile will sell the iPhone 5C, the device must support the telco’s nascent TD-LTE 4G network. There could also be a special China Mobile version of the iPhone 5C, even if that runs contrast to Apple’s penchant for keeping things simple.

iPhone-5-promo-LTE-chip-001

Whether or not the iPhone 5C supports 802.11ac – the latest in Wi-Fi networking – is up for the debate. Also known as Gigabit Wi-Fi, the standard promises three times the data throughput of the conventional Wi-Fi standard.

Now, only the 2013 editions of the MacBook Air family and the AirPort Express/Time Capsule wireless appliances sport 802.11ac networking . The upcoming Mac Pro will have it and it’s fairly safe to speculate that Gigabit Wi-Fi will be part of the iPad 5 and iPad mini 2, as well as Haswell-focused iMac, Mac mini and MacBook Pro refreshes.

iOS-7-AirDrop

AirDrop, one of the headline new iOS 7 features, is hardware-dependent. Even though AirDrop does not specifically require 802.11ac chips, the feature is currently supported only on the iPhone 5, iPad 4, iPad mini and fifth-generation iPod touch.

That said, we imagine the same Wi-Fi networking capabilities from the iPhone 5 will be supported on the iPhone 5C, at a minimum. Chances of Apple giving the iPhone 5C LTE Advanced and 802.11ac capabilities are slim – it’s perfectly plausible these features are exclusive to the flagship iPhone 5S.

No, we’re not expecting NFC either.

Summing up, we think the iPhone 5C will feature Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11n Wi-Fi on 2.4 and 5GHz bands, aGPS and GLONASS, as well as DC-HSPA+ and LTE.

Colors: five bright colorways

The iPhone 5C is expected to come in various colorways, some of them revealed by the frequent part-spotter Sonny Dickson. In total, the handset should be offered in five different colors: blue, green, yellow, white and red – the latter appearing to be more of a pinkish hue.

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Sketchy reports have also called for a completely black iPhone 5C, though the leaked shots were later debunked as fake.

The fake iPhone 5C Black-iPhone-5C-Sonny-Dickson-001backplate.

Here is a potential green variant without the sticker.

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And the following image apparently represents a bunch of iPhone 5C units being warmed up at Pegatron’s Shanghai plant for quality assurance purposes.

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Pegatron is Apple’s primary assembler of the iPhone 5C as Apple seeks to diversify risk after last year Foxconn manufacturing glitches with the iPhone 5 (hint: scratches, nicks andScuffgate), according to WSJ.

The contract manufacturer, named after the mythical flying horse Pegasus, became a minor producer of iPhones in 2011 and started assembling iPad minis last year.

Packaging: plastic box ala iPod touch

Apple’s never made a plastic iPhone box before so folks were taken aback whenNowhereElse.fr published photos depicting boxes with the label ‘iPhone 5C’ on the side.

Though we can’t vouch for their authenticity, a number of photos from various sources have corroborated that the device will come inside a transparent plastic box that looks a lot like the iPod touch packaging.

Here’s iPhone 5C packaging shared by NowhereElse.fr in late-July.

iPhone5C

And below is the current iPod touch plastic box.

iPod touch 5G box (Flickr user by emilykiel)
Image credit: Flickr user ‘emilykiel‘.

Another claimed photo by Chinese website iApps.im suggested Apple would color-match the external coloring of the device with the wallpaper. The shot below shows us the packaging with a red iPhone 5C along with a matching red wallpaper.

 

And here’s apparently a blue iPhone 5C, still in its retail packaging.

iphone5c1-e1378108214970Blue-iPhone-5C-packaging-closeupWatchful readers could point out Apple since 2012 has been color-matching the external coloring of the iPod nanos with the wallpaper, as can be seen below.

iPod nano 7G (blue, box, Flickr user Setuka)
Image credit: Flickr user ‘setuka‘.

So what else is in the box?

According to purported photographs posted on the Chinese micro-blogging website Sina Weibo and the Dutch blog SIM Only Radar, there’s also the included manual along with the official Apple stickers, the standard regulatory documentation and the SIM ejector tool Apple’s been bundling with all iPhone models to date.

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Summing up, as the iPhone 5C is all about building a more affordable device for cash-strapped buyers. Therefore, it’s not entirely inconceivable that cost saving measures would extend to the product’s retail packaging. Another benefit of transparent plastic boxes: folks get to see the actual device right on store shelves.

Pricing: think mid-range, not cheap

The iPhone 5C should be sold for a significantly lower price than the flagship iPhone 5S when purchased off-contract, with a full retail price pegged at $350-$450 or $400-$500, depending on whom you ask. At any rate, That’s considerably more affordable than the $649 price of the unsubsidized iPhone 5.

While Apple is believed to offer the iPhone 5C both on and off-contract from day one – unlike past iPhone releases where a contract-free variant arrived a few months following the launch – carrier subsidies should bring the upfront payment down to something like $99 for customers willing to sign on the dotted line.

iPhone 5 presser (Phil Schiller, iPhone family prices)

Assuming the off-contract iPhone 5C starts out at $450 for the basic model with sixteen gigabytes of storage (or perhaps even 8GB?), the 32/64GB tiers should translate to $550 and $650, respectively. Sorry, we’re not expecting a 128GB iPhone 5C variant – yes, another iPhone 5S exclusive.

Moreover, the $99 entry price point would fit the expected $199/$299/$399/$499 tiers for on-contract 16/32/64/128GB iPhone 5S versions. Finally, if the company keeps the 16GB iPhone 5 as an entry-level option, expect it to be offered for free – with a two-year contract, of course.

One caveat: should Apple drop the iPhone 5/4S/4 from the lineup come September 20, the on-contract iPhone 5C could just as well become Apple’s new “free” iPhone.

Tim Cook (iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, Martin Hajek 007)

I’m only speculating here, but the aforementioned price matrix would be consistent with Apple’s strategy of discounting previous-generation iPhones. Oh, we also don’t expect the iPhone 4S to be offered shortly as its smaller 3.5-inch screen would feel oddly out of place in the iPhone 5/5S/5C four-inch Retina lineup.

Last but not least, it’ll be interesting what ad tactics Apple’s marketing wizards cook up to pitch a plastic iPhone to consumers without sounding like a lesser-buy.

Availability: September 20, coming later to China Mobile and NTT DoCoMo

We’re expecting both the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S to be available across Apple’s key markets beginning Friday, September 20, with iOS 7 preloaded. This should give Apple a period of ten days to collect pre-orders between the September 10 announcement and wider September 20 availability.

As evidenced by employee vacation blackouts – not only by Apple, but major U.S. carriers as well – the device is expected to launch simultaneously across AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile networks. Sprint hasn’t cancelled their retail employee vacations yet so we’re guessing the telco could land the new iPhones a bit later.

The iPhone 5 launched last September in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore. By the end of 2012, the handset launched on 240 different carriers in a hundred countries.

iPhone 5 September 28 rollout

WSJ all but confirmed that Apple has finally inked a landmark distribution agreement with China Mobile, the world’s largest carrier. Two days ago, Reuters confirmed that Japan’s NTT DoCoMo will start carrying iPhones this Fall. Both are huge developments for Apple as the iPhone isn’t yet available on some of the world’s largest wireless carriers.

China Mobile has 700+ million subscribers, more than AT&T and Verizon combined! NTT DoCoMo is 60 million mobile users strong. Just adding these two carriers to the fold should add up significantly to iPhone sales and Apple’s bottom line.

Sales predictions

According to one estimate, expanded distribution will help the company push 13 million iPhone 5S/5C units in the first ten days of sale – or more than a million units a day – per Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves. Those would be record numbers, in accordance with the ‘most successful launch in Apple’s history’ prediction.

All told, Hargreaves expects up to 13 million iPhone sales before the September quarter closes and some 31 million units during the Christmas quarter.

iPhone 5C videos

If picture is worth a thousand words, a video may be worth a million.

• Colors side-by-side by TLDToday
• Back housing components unboxing by TLDToday
• Red iPhone 5C fully assembled, powered on, running Safari, by C Technology
• Comparison of iPhone 5/5S/5C shells, by Dom Esposito
• Scratch resistance test by AppleDaily.com.tw
• Hands-on with the yellow iPhone 5C back shell by Sonny Dickson
• Hands-on with the white iPhone 5C back shell by Sonny Dickson
• Early look at the white iPhone 5C housing by DetroitBORG
• iPhone 5C mystery case by Macotakara

You’re going to love these hands-on clips.

Signing off…

About the flagship iPhone 5S: two-tone iPhone 5 design, colorized backplate choices – including the controversial gold/champagne and graphite variants – at least a third-faster A7 chip and improved camera with much better low light shooting, 120FPS slow motion video capture, a 12 or 13-megapixel sensor and dual-LED flash.

And of course, the central feature: a redesigned Home button with an AuthenTec fingerprint sensor for user authentication (Slide To Identify?) and more. It should be the handset’s killer feature. If it means anything, insiders liken it to the seismic shift Siri was two years ago.

Fingerprint

Apple recently began training its AppleCare support staff and retail employees on iOS 7 and iTunes Radio so we’re expecting both devices to hit Apple Stores and carriers simultaneously. Those of you looking to dump your old device, Apple will pay up to $280 credit for used iPhones.

So what do you guys think?

Here’s everything we think we know about the iPhone 5S ahead of tomorrow’s launch!

Here’s everything we think we know about the iPhone 5S ahead of tomorrow’s launch!

Gold iPhone 5S

It’s been a long, long time, or so it seems, since Apple unveiled the iPhone 5. And while the handset has done decidedly well for the company, it’s been close to a year now, and consumers are ready for something new.

If our intel is accurate, they shouldn’t have to wait much longer. Apple sent out invites last week to a media event set to take place on Tuesday, September 10 at its Cupertino, California campus. And it’s widely expected to use the stage to unveil a new handset.

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In fact, most of the evidence suggests that, for the first time in its history, Apple will unveil two new iPhones next week. One is the replacement for the flagship iPhone 5, believed to be called the iPhone 5S, and the other is an all-new budget model, allegedly called the iPhone 5C.

Now, Christian has already done a great job going over what we expect to see from the latter, so it’s time to take a look at the former. Here’s everything we think we know about the iPhone 5S…

iPhones-iPhone-5-graphite-gold-iPhone-5S-iPhone-5CFrom left: iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C

All of the information you’ll find below comes directly from hundreds of reports by credible news outlets, proven-accurate analysts, and various component and part leaks. While it’s impossible, obviously, to confirm the legitimacy of any of this, the fact that everything fits a similar narrative is assuring.

Let’s get to it.

What’s Apple going to call it?

Sometimes it’s tough to speculate on what Apple is going to call a new product. They like to use a variety of naming schemes, including numbers (iPhone 3G, 4, 5), Pro and Consumer models (MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, iMac, MacBook Air), and then off the wall stuff like last year’s ‘The New iPad.’

But this is not one of those times. Since we first started hearing talk of the seventh generation iPhone late last year, the device has always and consistently been referred to as the iPhone 5S.

hi-res-5s-boxUnconfirmed photos of iPhone 5S retail packaging

Why? Because Apple has, for several years now, alternated the naming of its handset between numbered models (iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, iPhone 5) and S models (iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4S) in a tic-tock-like pattern. First comes the numbered model, which typically features a new hardware design, and then comes the S model, which usually sports its predecessor’s design with a focus on internal and software improvements. And as you’ll see below, everything about this year’s iPhone points to it being an S model.

What’s it going to look like?

It’s not hard to picture what the iPhone 5S is going to look like, just take a quick look at the iPhone 5. Following the S model trend of year’s past, the two handsets look nearly identical.

gold-iphone-2iPhone 5 stacked on top of champagne-colored iPhone 5S 

Practically everything we’ve seen as far as 5S part leaks matches up with the iPhone 5. Looking at the rear shell, you’ll see a 3.5mm headphone jack, a microphone, a Lightning port and a speaker across the bottom, and around the sides you’ll find familiar volume, mute and power buttons.

On the back there’s the usual iPhone and Apple logos, and a cluster in the top lefthand corner that features an iSight camera lens, a microphone and a flash. Note that one of the few differences we have seen thus far between the iPhone 5 and 5S is that the latter features a pill-shaped flash, which is believed to house dual LED bulbs. More on that later.

iPhone-5S-graphite-gold-Sonny-Dickson-001-1024x684Champagne and graphite iPhone 5S shells with various components

Interestingly enough, we haven’t seen much in the way of front part leaks for the iPhone 5S, but reports claim that it will look very familiar. We imagine the same 4-inch display will separate an iSight camera and earpiece slit up top, and a large Home button on bottom. We do, however, expect to see at least a slight change in the Home button, considering it’s believed to contain a built-in fingerprint sensor. More on that later too.

Same 4-inch Retina display

Though there’s been some talk lately of Apple testing iPhone displays between 4.5 and 6-inches, this year’s model, the 5S, is expected to feature the same 4-inch Retina display found on the iPhone 5.

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For those not familiar with the panel’s specs, it offers a resolution of 1136-by-640-pixels, at 326 ppi (or pixels per inch). And if you really want to nerd-out, it has an 800:1 contrast ratio and 500 cd/m2 max brightness.

What about the cameras?

Unlike the display, the camera specs for the upcoming iPhone 5S are a little bit tougher to nail down. For starters, we haven’t heard much regarding the front-facing FaceTime camera, meaning there’s little evidence that it will be an improvement over the 1.2-megapixel sensor found in the current iPhone. That being said, with prices of camera modules dropping all the time, we wouldn’t be surprised if it received a little bump.

iPhone 5 on iOS7

As for the rear iSight camera, we’ve heard conflicting reports calling for everything from an8-megapixel sensor to a 12-megapixel sensor, but the consensus seems to be settling on the former. Yes, it seems likely that Apple will keep the iPhone’s camera sensor at 8MP, while improving various other components. For instance, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes it will have a wider f/2.0 aperture and a dual LED-flash. The dual flash is said to be made of both white and yellow bulbs for improved low-light shooting.

iphone_5s_rearRear iPhone 5S component showing pill-shaped opening for dual-flash

But perhaps the most interesting thing we’ve seen regarding the iPhone 5S camera is a new feature that surfaced in the source code of one of the early iOS 7 betas. It’s called ”Mogul mode,” and it allows for video recording at a frame rate of 120 frames per second. This would give users the ability to create slow motion videos, and other effects. And since the iPhone 5 can’t shoot video at 120 FPS, it’s likely that this new feature utilizes the 5S’ upgraded camera equipment.

Upgraded internals

The star of the iPhone 5S internals is going to be Apple’s new A7 processor, and if previous reports hold up, it’s going to be quite the upgrade over the current A6. Last month, Fox News’ Clayton Morris cited sources claiming that the chip is roughly 31% faster than its predecessor. “I’m hearing it’s very fast,” he said, “and I’ve also heard there’s a separate chip devoted to motion tracking.” It’s worth noting here that Morris’ claims haven’t been corroborated by any other reports, but they aren’t unlikely, given the aforementioned camera improvements.

iphone_5s_interiorInternal shot of an iPhone 5S prototype

As for the rest of the internals, we haven’t heard much. But it sounds like the A7 will be paired with 1GB of Elpida DRAM. It also appears likely that the new iPhone will feature a larger battery than its predecessor, with Ming-Chi Kuo calling for a 1600mAh pack (the 5 has a 1440mAh battery). The prediction is backed up by the above photo from MacRumors, which shows an alleged iPhone 5S prototype containing a substantially larger battery.

Connection options

The iPhone 5S is expected to come with a wide range of connection options allowing you to connect to virtually any cell network, wireless access point, or device. Bluetooth 4.0 is of course on the menu, as are all of the current cellular bands and frequencies including UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA, GSM/EDGE, CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B.

We also expect to see broader support for LTE, possibly including China Mobile’s TD-LTE network, but we aren’t anticipating support for the much faster LTE-A (or LTE Advanced). The technology just isn’t there yet.

ios-7-settings-e1378629513324

As for Wi-Fi, we know 802.11a/b/g/n (802.11n 2.4GHz and 5GHz) will be supported, as they currently are in the iPhone 5, but we aren’t sure about the new 802.11ac standard. One would think it would make the cut, considering Apple’s latest Macs support it, but we’ve seen zero evidence supporting that theory.

Color and storage options

Now, let’s talk about color options. The iPhone 5 comes in two flavors: white and silver and slate and black. It appears that the iPhone 5S, however, will come in four colorways: white and silver, black and slate, white and champagne, and a mysterious graphite color. A lot of folks have scoffed at the idea of Apple offering a gold-colored handset, but this has been confirmed by multiple credible news outlets and part leaks. The good new is, though, that it’s so light and subtle, it looks more classy than gaudy.

Gold iPhoneA champagne-colored iPhone 5S

Storage options will likely follow the trend of 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB that we’ve seen over the past few years. There have been some rumblings though, that there will be a 128GB this time around. But the evidence for this theory is weak, outside of an August report [again] from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. However, given that Apple began offering a 128GB iPad modelearlier this year, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think it would do the same with its smartphone.

Killer new feature

In past iPhone S models, Apple has provided at least one so-called ‘killer feature’ to entice folks to upgrade. In the 3GS, it was video recording, and with the 4S, it was Siri. For the 5S, it’s believed to be a fingerprint sensor built into the Home button. Here’s a concept of what it could look like (via Martin Hajek), based on recent photos of alleged iPhone 5S packaging, which depict a silver ring around the handset’s Home button.

iPhone-5S-silver-rounded-Home-button-Martin-Hajek-001

The feature will utilize technology built by AuthenTec, which Apple purchased last summerfor almost $400 million, and will allow users to quickly and securely unlock their phones. But that’s just the first phase. Eventually, the sensor could be used to replace passwords for both Apple and third-party services, as well as to authenticate mobile payments.

As far-fetched as this all sounds, there’s actually quite a bit of evidence here. Analyst andinsider reports, part leaks, and code found within an early iOS 7 beta all corroborate the theory. Expect a fingerprint sensor in the new iPhone.

Pricing and Availability

What will the iPhone 5S cost? Well at this point, we have no reason to believe that the handset is going to be any more expensive than its predecessor. So that means that we would be looking at $649, $749 and $849 (USD) full retail for the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models respectively. Folks who plan on buying the phone subsidized through a carrier can expect the usual $199, $299 and $399 pricing. And if the rumored 128GB model shows up, we imagine it would fall in at $949 and $499. Wow.

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Initial availability for the iPhone 5S appears to be September 20. This is backed up by a scoop from business resource Nikkei, a premature announcement by China Telecom, and reports that both T-Mobile and AT&T have blacked out the date for employee vacations. And considering the 20th falls on the Friday of the week following Apple’s media event—a common launch sequence for Apple—we say it’s pretty likely.

Wrapping up

Rumors and reports have been very consistent this year regarding the iPhone 5S—there’s been very little conflicting information about the major aspects of the device. With that being said, this is Apple we’re talking about here—a company known to go through extraordinary lengths to keep its product plans secret—so keep in mind that none of this is official until Tim Cook and the executive team take the stage on Tuesday.

We’d like to think, though, that we did a pretty good job of wading through the pool of rumors and separating fact from fiction. I guess we’ll find out in 72 hours.

Be sure to share your thoughts on the iPhone 5S, or let us know if we missed something, in the comments below!

Everything we think we know about the iPhone 5C ahead of tomorrow’s launch!

Apple testing larger iPhone displays of up to 6 inches?

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Apple is currently testing iPhone screens as large as six inches, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. The news comes as many of the company’s competitors are releasing handsets with 5 and 6 inch displays—the new Note 3 measures in at 5.7.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that Apple is toying with the idea of making a larger iPhone. In fact, The Journal told a similar story in mid-July. So it seems that while the bigger displays are not expected to debut on this year’s model, they are on the way…

The Journal‘s Ian Sherr, Eva Dou and Lorraine Luk report:

“As Apple Inc. AAPL -0.69% prepares to unveil both a new high-end iPhone and a cheaper version for the first time next week, it is already working on something bigger.

The electronics giant has begun evaluating a plan to offer iPhones with screens ranging from 4.8 inches to as high as six inches, people familiar with the matter say. That would be a sizable leap from the 4-inch screen of the iPhone 5 released last year, and, at the upper end, would be one of the largest on the market.”

The report goes onto say that it is unclear whether Apple will choose to follow a multi-size, multi-device strategy beyond the iPhone 5C it’s expected to launch this month. But it appears to be fairly open to the idea, and is particularly interested in 4.8-inch displays.

The company has also been rumored to be testing various screen sizes for its iPad  line. Over the summer, it was reported that it was looking at tablet displays of up to 13-inches. Yesterday, a note by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said it’s also working on a budget model.

All of this suggests that Apple is looking to expand its smartphone and tablet lines. And while we won’t likely see the new options at next week’s event, or at the proposed event in October, the consistent chatter makes you think that they may not be very far off.

Apple now worth $500,000,000,000 ! Why It Won’t Stop There ..

Apple now worth more than Poland !

Apple (AAPL) crossed an amazing milestone in after-market trading yesterday, when its market capitalization exceeded $500 billion for the first time.  To put this in perspective, the tech juggernaut is now more valuable than the gross domestic product of Poland, Belgium, Sweden and even Saudi Arabia.

Apple is one of the only one of four companies in history to break this mark, and unlike others that have briefly traded in this neighborhood–Microsoft (MSFT) and Cisco (CSCO) –Apple has the potential to not only sustain this value but blow past it.

Why?

First because Apple’s stock still is not expensive on traditional valuation measures.

The stock trades at a 15X trailing price-earnings ratio, which is about the average PE ratio for the market as a whole for the past century. Needless to say, Apple is growing its earnings vastly faster than the market as a whole.

Second, Apple’s penetration of its key product categories is still relatively low. Macs, for example, still make up only about 10% of PC sales worldwide. iPhones, meanwhile, are only about 20% of the exploding global smartphone market, which itself is growing extremely rapidly. And Apple dominates the tablet market, which is still in its infancy.

Thus, all three of Apple’s core businesses appear to have plenty of room to grow. And the company is widely expected to launch a major new business later this year, TVs, which could open up another huge growth opportunity.

Lastly, for those focused on near-term catalysts, Apple should have plenty of good news to announce over the next six months. The iPad 3 is expected next week (click here for all the expected features), the iPhone 5 should appear this summer, and Apple’s TV is expected in the fall.

Obviously, as with any fast-growing technology company, there is plenty of downside risk for Apple, especially given the loss of Steve Jobs. All the products Apple will release this year were likely incubated under Jobs, and it won’t be until next year and the following year that we’ll know how well Apple can innovate under its new CEO, Tim Cook.

But Cook is off to a great start so far. And Apple’s three businesses are humming, with another potentially big one thought to be on the way. And Apple’s stock just isn’t expensive relative to historical earnings, let alone expected future earnings.

So it is not, actually, far-fetched to think that Apple’s value could eventually hit $1 trillion or more.