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"Weâre just weeks away from the announcement of the new Apple iPhone 5, according to an Apple employee who asked not to be named because he was not allowed to speak publicly for the company," Nick Bilton wrote in a report for The New York Times.
His sources within Apple also said case designs that recently surfaced online "seemed potentially authentic." The designs, which were quickly taken down, depicted a next-generation iPhone with curved sides, a flat back, and a mute switch moved to the right side of the handset.
According to an Apple engineer "familiar with the new iPhone," the company's next handset will be "fairly different" from the previous generation. The source also confirmed the widely-held belief that the device will sport an 8-megapixel camera and the faster A5 processor currently found in the iPad 2.
Bilton also reiterated his earlier report that cited "two people with knowledge of the inner workings of Appleâs next-generation iPhones" as saying either the fifth- or sixth-generation iPhone will include a near-field communication chip from Qualcomm, possibly to add mobile payment functionality.
Apple has expressed a keen interest in NFC technology in the past. On Thursday, AppleInsider uncovered a patent application that proposed using passive radio-frequency identification to transmit information about hardware failures. The company has also investigated more standard uses of NFC, such as e-wallet and tag reader functionality.
It should be noted that the "just weeks away" timeframe provided by the Times is hardly new. Numerous reports have suggested that the iPhone 5 will arrive by mid-October. Earlier this week, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of Concord Securities told AppleInsider that the golden master of iOS 5 is scheduled to be released to assemblers during the last week of September in preparation for release by the middle of October.