The Next iPhone: 4-inch Screen? Keyboard? Time Travel?

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I’ll be honest: Rumors of an iPhone that’s capable of facilitating time travel haven’t surfaced… yet. But there’s some new scuttlebutt regarding larger-screen versions and an apparent prototype with a slide-out keyboard.

The rumors pertain to the iPhone 5, which is widely expected to be announced in June during Apple’s developers conference. DigiTimes is reporting that “upstream component suppliers” have indicated that Apple’s next flagship phone will feature a 4-inch screen.

While an extra half-inch may not sound like much, the idea is for the “fifth generation iPhone to compete with the Google Android platform in the 4- to 7-inch smartphone market,” according to DigiTimes‘ sources. Yes, they’re apparently throwing 7-inch Android tablets into the mix.

It’s getting more difficult to find Android phones with anything smaller than 4-inch screens nowadays so the rumor could hold some water, especially if the rumored cheaper, smaller iPhone model turns out to be real as well.

However, that’d mark a departure for Apple in the sense that it’s always released one iPhone model at a time. If the company announces a 4-inch iPhone and an iPhone that’s two-thirds to half the size of the current model, as the rumors suggest, then what’s to stop Apple from introducing another 3.5-inch model to bridge the gap?

Releasing three different iPhone models at the same time doesn’t really seem to jive with Apple’s focus on simplicity, but the iPhone 4 is now on two (two!) networks and the nearly infinite choices of Android form factors may be applying some downward pressure.

And yet another batch of rumors indicate “that Apple has built three prototype models for its anticipated ‘iPhone 5,’ and one of them has a ‘sliding cover’ that conceals a keyboard,” according to AppleInsider.

One of the other prototypes is apparently “largely like the iPhone 4, but has improved hardware including longer battery life and superior camera,” which AppleInsider compares to how the iPhone 3GS replaced the iPhone 3G.

For those of you keeping score…

Here’s where we’re at with all the iPhone rumors.

Smaller iPhone (Bloomberg)

– iPhone with software-based SIM card that works on any network (Bloomberg—may or may not be the same as the smaller iPhone)

Smaller iPhone with free MobileMe online storage (Wall Street Journal)

Smaller iPhone with no storage that streams everything from MobileMe (Cult of Mac)

iPhone with 4-inch screen (DigiTimes)

iPhone with sliding keyboard (AppleInsider)

iPhone 4-like but better (AppleInsider)

It’s madness, to be sure. I’m not much of a betting man but I’d wager that Apple’s June announcement will either be for a single iPhone model, or if it’s going to announce multiple models, it’ll announce three—small, medium and large: the little, cheap iPhone that keeps cropping up, the iPhone 4-like replacement with the 3.5-inch screen, and a 4-inch version.

If Apple only announces a single version, I think it’ll have a 4-inch screen if that DigiTimes rumor is to be believed. I don’t think Apple would announce only a smaller, cheaper iPhone or an iPhone that looks like the iPhone 4 but has minor internal upgrades without announcing a completely overhauled version as well. An iPhone with a slide-out keyboard just seems weird altogether but maybe it’d be a play at the business sector.

This stuff is all still four months out, which is an eternity in the world of technology. A lot can change before June, and we’ll undoubtedly come across countless additional rumors between now and then.

More on

Apple Prepping Small, Cheap iPhone and Free Online Storage?

Whispers of a No-Contract, Carrier-Jumping iPhone

Next iPad Already in Production?

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