According to a report today from Taiwanese site Apple.pro, Apple is currently testing three prototypes for its upcoming iPhone 5, one of which features a slide-out physical keyboard similar to that on the HTC 7 Pro. The other prototypes are said to be not too dissimilar to the iPhone 4 – the current generation device – but with an improved battery and an 8-megapixel camera.
Apart from the prototype carrying the slide-out keyboard, the differences between the other two fifth-generation devices and the iPhone 4 seem to be mostly internal, with the same design on the outside. The report notes that the transition from fourth- to fifth-generation iPhone will resemble that between the 3G and the 3GS – although the devices will look identical, the improvements will be all on the inside.
Unfortunately the Engligh isn’t too great because it’s taken from a Google translation of the Taiwanese report, but the report reads:
There are three iPhone5 prototype
one is a sliding cover which
Is the introduction of the keyboard after the side cover
Although the suggestion of a physical keyboard seems to go against Apple’s devotion to multi-touch, MacRumors notes that Apple.pro has a good track record of providing leaked information on upcoming Apple devices, and that suggestions in their reports shouldn’t just be dismissed. The site recently published photos of a small Apple-branded touch screen that was introduced a few months later in the latest iPod nano.
Similarities in physical design between the current iPhone 4 and the fifth-generation device are to be expected when the device is announced this summer. The release of the Verizon iPhone 4 earlier this month – just months before the announcement of the iPhone 5 – suggests that Apple will stick with the form factor of the current device. Unsurprisingly there will be a large number of Verizon customers who are unhappy with their new device if it’s replaced by a significantly different model so soon after their purchase.
With regards to a physical keyboard, I’m not so sure. If Apple is looking to increase its iPhone user base even more then a physical keyboard could certainly persuade the likes of BlackBerry users, who are used to their hard keys, to make the move to the iPhone. However, Apple is very enthusiastic about multi-touch, and the introduction of a slide-out keyboard would go against its previous commitment to touch screens.
Apple.pro does emphasize in its report that these are just prototypes, and that the model which features a slide-out keyboard could simply be a device but together to test functionality and different form factors.