Right on schedule for a mid-September release date, photos and hardware specifications of the iPhone 5S have leaked from the Chinese supply chain. Looks-wise, the iPhone 5S appears to be identical to the iPhone 5 (no surprise there), but the internal hardware specs have received a significant boost. If the leak is accurate, the iPhone 5S will have a quad-core PowerVR SGX544MP4 GPU, 4-inch (1136×640) IGZO display, 2GB of RAM, and the brand-new introduction of NFC and… a fingerprint scanner. The CPU, according to the leak, will be the same Swift core found in the iPhone 5′s A6 SoC, but clocked at a higher speed.
The leaked photos, where were posted on Weibo (China’s equivalent of Twitter) by C Technology, show an iPhone 5S without its rear cover (revealing an NFC antenna) and a stack of semi-assembled iPhone 5S in what appears to be production-line trays. The hardware specs come from EXP Review, a Chinese-language hardware site. Judging by state of the phones, the photos probably come from a Foxconn factory in China. The fact that the iPhone 5S looks identical to the iPhone 5 would seem to discredit the idea that Apple is preparing to skip the 5S and jump straight to the iPhone 6 and a plastic-backed iPhone Mini. It’s possible that we could still see some iPhone Minis this September, but we’ll have to wait and see.
The iPhone 5S hardware specs are good, but not massively exciting; they’re an incremental update, just like the 4S. The 12MP camera with dual-LED flash will be nice, and go someway towards bridging the chasm created by Nokia’s PureView cameras. 2GB of RAM could help with multitasking. The quad-core GPU will undoubtedly keep the graphically-intensive iOS 7 running smoothly. There are some who would love to see Apple make the jump to a quad-core CPU, but Apple knows that dual-core is still the sensible choice for a smartphone. There’s probably a lot of headroom, anyway: The iPhone 5′s CPU is clocked at just 1.3GHz, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the 5S hits 1.6GHz or more.
The interesting features are, of course, the fingerprint scanner and the IGZO display. The IGZO display will probably look identical to the iPhone 5, but the superior display technology (IGZO vs. amorphous silicon, a-Si) means that the IGZO display will draw considerably less power. The other option is that Apple can make the iPhone 5S’s display brighter, while consuming the same amount of power. If this leak turns out to be true (and it’s not the first time we’ve heard it), this would be the first major outing for Sharp’s IGZO technology. The other IGZO-based product that we’ve recently seen is Asus’s 32-inch 4K
The fingerprint scanner is another rumor that has consistently popped up ever since an Apple patent for the technology was discovered. If the leak is to be believed, the iPhone 5S home button will have a fingerprint scanner built in. As one of the first consumers to have a computer with a built-in fingerprint scanner (a Samsung X10!), I can tell you that fingerprint scanning, on a consumer-oriented device, isn’t all that exciting. The primary use-case will probably be unlocking your smartphone with your finger, rather than a PIN — which is admittedly rather exciting, as long as it works flawlessly every time and you don’t have to re-swipe your finger over and over. There’s always the risk of someone chopping your finger off or lifting one of your latent prints, too — a gaping security hole that everyday consumers really shouldn’t have to deal with.