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Though Apple isn't expected to introduce a new iPhone model for months, one Wall Street analyst claims that the company has already internally "locked down" the design for its next flagship handset, sporting a 4.8-inch display and speedy 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity.
Mockup of iPhone with 4.94-inch screen, created by Marco Arment.
The details come from analyst Timothy Arcuri of Cowen and Company, who issued a note to investors on Wednesday in which he claimed that much of the design of Apple's next iPhone has been finalized. Citing checks within the company's supply chain, he believes the handset will feature a larger 4.8-inch display, matching the trend of larger smartphones elsewhere in the market.
Arcuri isn't the first to suspect that Apple will launch a larger iPhone model this year, with various earlier rumors suggesting the company has been toying with screen sizes just under 5 inches. One of the most respected Apple analysts, Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, said last September that the company is likely to launch a larger iPhone this year, but that the device will not exceed 5 inches due to Apple's "unwavering principle of one hand use."
As for 802.11ac, the new Wi-Fi standard was added to the Macs Apple updated in 2013, along with Apple's AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule routers. But last year's flagship iPhone 5s remains limited to 802.11n Wi-Fi connections.
Aside from hardware tweaks and design changes, Arcuri also said that Apple is planning "key software innovations" with the next major release of its iOS platform. He expects the company will leverage iBeacon, Touch ID and Passbook as part of a push into new services with mobile payments.
In many ways, Arcuri said, last year's release of the iPhone 5s was merely a "set-up" for this year's new products. In particular, he believes the 64-bit A7 processor and Touch ID fingerprint sensor will allow Apple to introduce new services that will give it a leg up on the competition.
Arcuri expects Apple to follow its typical annual release schedule and launch a so-called "iPhone 6" in September, though some sources have reportedly indicated to him that a June launch for the next-generation device is "not out of the question."
Also on tap this year, according to Arcuri, is a 13-inch iPad that he expects to "blur the lines between tablets and PCs." The analyst expects that the larger iPad model would likely debut in late 2014.