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Where's Apple Going With the Next iPhone?


Apple is rumored to be moving further away from what made an iPhone an iPhone.

Has it really only been six years since Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) debuted the original iPhone?

Since 2007, the world has been blindsided by a wealth of revolutions and innovations in tech, especially in the mobile field, rendering the pre-iPhone world as antiquated as a sparkly animated gif on a MySpace profile. And yet, compare the original, Mark I iPhone with the iPhone 5S from this year, and the similarities transcend this past half-decade of extensive hardware reconstruction. Same basic shape (aside from a longer screen), same home button at the bottom (aside from a fingerprint sensor), same overall look (aside from a gold trim).

While most, if not all, of this year's best phones bear virtually no similarities to the best phones from 2007, the iPhone 5S feels almost like a throwback to the days of MySpace.

Apple is no stranger to being criticized for its vice-like grip on a design formula, but many find the consistency with the iPhone's construction to be a testament of what Apple got right the first time around. After all, you didn't have to look far to see the influence it had on the rest of the market.

However, as Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) began dipping their toes in different hardware schemes -- some of which, like larger screens, proved to be a hit with users -- the classic iPhone design began looking more and more like it was being out-innovated. Even last year when the iPhone 5 was unveiled with an elongated screen, which is arguably the biggest change Apple's smartphone line has ever undergone, many users greeted it with a "been there, done that" attitude.

So, not unlike the overhaul Cupertino gave iOS this year, Apple is long overdue to rethink where the iPhone fits in the future of hardware design. Yes, the iPhone 5S is a solidly constructed device, but given the leaps and bounds other manufacturers have made with their own designs, the line could afford a new look.

And sure enough, a recent report by Bloomberg says Apple may in fact be looking into a serious hardware changeup for its iPhone line.

First up, while Android users are now toting and enjoying screens upwards of and surpassing five inches, Apple is considering a similar expansion for the iPhone. The company is rumored to be working on 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens for iPhone prototypes, which would shatter the 3.5-inch screen dimensions from the pre-iPhone 5 days. And although an iPhone with a display larger than four inches has been in the rumor mill for years, it may be high time for the company to finally cater to users who'd rather not squint when using their phones.

Apple is also rumored to be developing pressure sensitivity in an upcoming iPhone, which could easily change the way we interact with our phones. Whereas BlackBerry failed to spark a tactile screen revolution with the BlackBerry Storm in 2008, Apple could incite a groundswell of demand for devices that measure how hard you're pressing down on the screen. Everything from basic UI functionality to gaming controls could be overhauled. If Apple implements this successfully, it would be an unequivocal (and literal) game-changer.

But while screen size and sensitivity would prove to be minor updates to design line, a curved screen would finally break away from the classic look of the iPhone. Bloomberg reports that Apple is prototyping an iPhone with an apparent convex screen that "curves downward at the edges." Samsung (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) and LG have already introduced devices with curved screens: the Galaxy Round and G Flex, respectively. However, both sport a concave curve -- the Galaxy Round along the vertical axis, and the G Flex along the horizontal -- supposedly to better fit the contours of a user's cheek, though neither radically departs from the basic functionality of a flat screen.

Ostensibly, Apple wouldn't introduce a convexly shaped screen just to slightly alter the scope of a user's perspective. If implemented, a convex screen would likely change how users interact with their device -- perhaps by notifications running along the edge of the screen that can be viewed from the side or sensors that note where your fingers are resting as you hold the device. As a jumping-off point, a convex screen may offer Apple an abundance of design possibilities.

Of course, with every Apple rumor, the likelihood of implementation is slim. Even if Cupertino is running a curved, 5.5-inch iPhone through its R&D hurdles, the device may very well never see the light of day. However, its existing iPhone line is admittedly suffering from stagnation in the looks department. If Apple wants to shatter its reputation for remaining safe and complacent in a rapidly changing landscape as of late, it needs to update and modify not just what's under the hood, but also the hood itself.

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