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Apple rumored to be looking into new charging method for 6th-gen iPhone

Apple is planning a "major revamp" of the iPhone in 2012 that may include a new charging method, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Wall Street Journal added possible details of a sixth-generation iPhone to an earlier report on the so-called "iPhone 5," which is expected this fall.

Wednesday's report claimed Apple's next iPhone will be smaller and lighter with an 8-megapixel camera. The iPhone maker reportedly hopes to build 25 million units of the device by the end of 2011, though sources said the new model is "complicated and difficult to assemble" and could face production constraints.

However, investors are said to be expecting a "bigger boost" to the company's iPhone business next year. "People briefed on Apple's plans said the company is planning a major iPhone revamp then, with one person saying the company has been experimenting with features such as a new way of charging the phone," the report said.

The source was unable to provide further details on any new charging technology Apple is working on. Patent filings for a range of alternative charging methods could provide some indication of Apple's plans, though the vast majority of Apple's patent applications never see the light of day. In particular, the company has looked into induction charging of iOS devices through "non-contact based platforms." An Apple patent filing published last year described an iPad dock with inductive coils.

It has also been suggested that Apple will transition its iOS devices to connecting over the Thunderbolt port, rather than USB. The Apple and Intel co-developed standard provides power and 10Gbps of data and display. A job posting from the Cupertino, Calif., company discovered in April listed ARM processor experience as a requirement for a "Thunderbolt Software Quality Engineer" position, a possible sign that future versions of the iPhone or iPad could incorporate the technology.

The Journal's sources also contributed to a much-talked-about rumor that Apple is working on a "less-expensive phone," adding that the device could have new features such as an edge-to-edge screen. Speculation of a cheaper iPhone was reignited last week when Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore suggested that Apple will release a $349 contract-free iPhone later this year. However, analysts and media outlets disagree on whether a cheaper iPhone is indeed coming in the near future.