What to expect from iPhone 5 ... and the phones that already deliver it

By: John McGarvey

Date: 11 September 2012

Unless one of the world's most valuable companies is trying to mislead us all, Wednesday will see Apple unveil iPhone 5. The latest in its line of smart phones, the shiny, desirable object will almost certainly prompt long queues at Apple stores and deliver a surge in sales. Shareholders must be rubbing their hands with glee.

Rumours abound about what new features iPhone 5 will have, and some of the less outlandish suggestions seem pretty much guaranteed. We look at three top feature rumours and ask whether they'll really make a difference to how your use your phone. We've also rounded up some phones which already offer them.

1. A bigger screen

Although smart phone screens have grown larger over the last couple of years, Apple has stuck with a 3.5" screen for its iPhone. Expect that to change for iPhone 5, which looks likely to offer a 4" screen that will be taller, yet no wider. It'll allow more space for apps, email, websites and maps, without making the phone harder to use one-handed.

Is it worth having?
Probably. A larger screen may appeal to existing iPhone users, and taller-but-not-wider proportions would keep the phone more pocket-sized and easy to work with one hand. However, big screens often mean reduced battery life, and can an extra half inch really make that much difference?

Other options
There are heaps of smart phones out there with bigger screens. But if you really want a phone with a large screen, why hold back? The Samsung Galaxy S3 has a huge 4.8" screen, which is certainly handy for viewing websites and documents. It costs around £450 to buy outright, or you can get it for £25 when you sign up for a £36 a month contract with T-Mobile.

2. A new connector

Apple's range of iPods and iPhones uses a long, thin connector for charging and transferring data. But to keep the phone as small as possible, it looks like the company will move to a smaller connector with iPhone 5. This will frustrate existing iPhone owners, who will - presumably - have to ditch all their accessories if they decide to upgrade.

Is it worth having?
No. Engineering benefits aside, any change to the connector will simply spell inconvenience for existing iPhone owners who are upgrading. It also means none of the super-cheap iPhone cables you can currently find online will work.

Other options
Apple seems to take pleasure in forcing its own standards onto things like connectors, yet there's a perfectly good universal connector out there. It's called Micro USB, and you'll find it on many other handsets including the Nokia Lumia 800. This mid-range Windows Mobile handset is available for free with a £30 a month Three Mobile contract, or for £300 outright.

3. A faster processor

Today's smart phones are super powerful. Pretty much whichever one you buy is likely to have more than enough oomph for web browsing, playing games and so on. I've had an iPhone 4S for months and it's still snappy with no sign of slowdown. However, many experts expect iPhone 5 to come with a quad-core processor, which should make the phone faster when you're running several apps.

Is it worth having?
At the moment, there's little benefit because few apps require all that processing power. Fast forward a year though, and you might be glad of the power - historically, the iPhone's new features have only been fully exploited over time.

Other options
There's no shortage of quad-core smart phones on the market at the moment. The HTC One X is a monstrously-powerful handset that's received excellent reviews. It's free with a £36 a month T-Mobile contract, or you can get it with no ties for £419.

Apple's box of tricks

The big unknown with any Apple launch is, of course, which of the more outlandish rumours are true. Could we see a phone with a built-in chip that allows you to pay for things, fingerprint recognition ... or something that nobody has guessed yet? Find out on Wednesday.

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