The rumors surrounding Apple's March 21 event have hit a fever pitch. But now there are questions over just how big the company's announcements will be.
Apple (aapl) will unveil a new iPhone at its March 21 event, but contrary to earlier rumors, the company's new handset won't come with an improved design, 9to5Mac reports, citing people who claim to have knowledge of its plans. Instead, the Apple-tracking site's sources say that the new iPhone will come with a design that looks "almost exactly the same" as Apple's iPhone 5s.
Rumors have been swirling that Apple will launch a new, 4-inch iPhone at its March 21 event. The device is rumored to be the replacement for its iPhone 5S, which it currently sells alongside the bigger (and far more expensive) iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. However, most of those rumors have suggested that Apple would deliver an improved design over the iPhone 5s.
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At the end of last month, another smartphone-leaking site, OnLeaks, published renderings that it claims were based on schematics for the next iPhone. That design appeared to show a smartphone that looked somewhat similar to the iPhone 6s line, boasting rounded edges and antenna lines on the back. Several other reports have similarly said that the next iPhone, which could be known as the iPhone SE, iPhone 5SE, or iPhone 6c, will feature a metallic backplate and come with a nearly identical design to the iPhone 6s.
The latest rumor, however, says Apple is planning something much different. Rather than deliver something fresh, Apple's next iPhone will mimic the design of a device that launched back in 2013, according to the 9to5Mac report. The move could be a way for Apple to keep costs and the device's price down.
Indeed, if the new iPhone is expected to be a replacement for the iPhone 5s, it will struggle to match pricing. The iPhone 5s, which comes in 16GB and 32GB versions, starts at $450 off-contract, and is available from just $15 per month for those who want to pay monthly installments.
Coming close to matching that price could be difficult, if not impossible, for Apple. All reports suggest that the next iPhone will come with updated components, boasting the A9 processor offered in the iPhone 6s, which will push production costs up. Add that to rumors of a better camera and overall improved performance, and the next iPhone could be a bit more expensive than the iPhone 5s it's replacing. A new design would add even more to the cost.
Still, Apple's success has been enhanced by its design prowess. Every two years, the company launches new smartphone designs, leaving the interim years for nominal design upgrades. With expectations of a new iPhone to replace the iPhone 5s, some have desired a brand-new design.
But questions remain over whether Apple truly needs to change the iPhone's design to be successful. The iPhone 5s may have launched nearly three years ago, but it's still a popular option for customers on a budget. And although its design may not be as sleek as the iPhone 6s, it's certainly not ugly.
Apple sticking to the same design in its next iPhone, in other words, may not be so bad. Apple could deliver an enhanced 4-inch iPhone and keep its costs (and price) down by offering a smartphone with a nearly identical design to the one it's replacing. Owners will still have a better iPhone in the end.
Still, as with all Apple rumors, take this latest design report with a grain of salt. Apple has not even said that it'll launch a new iPhone, let alone say what it'll look like. So, wait until the event on March 21 to see what Apple has in store.