Even if you are frustrated by Apple’s focus on the iPad and iPhone, it is likely that you own one or both devices, and that you know a few people whose first experience of Apple was one of those handhelds (or an iPod). They have opened up Apple to the masses, and the current popularity of the Mac is largely thanks to these products. So what does Apple have up its iPhone sleeve in 2011? 

As with the iPad, you can expect to see a faster processor, maybe at 1.2GHz. It’s hard to pinpoint the processor speed of the Apple-designed A4 chip in the iPhone and iPad, because Apple doesn’t share this information, but it’s claimed that the iPhone chip runs at about 750MHz to 800MHz. A faster processor would allow HD (1080p) video display, giving the iPhone its highest-quality video system yet. 

You can also expect Apple to increase the memory on the iPhone. The iPhone 4 offers 512MB RAM, which enables it to support multitasking, but rumours suggest the next iPhone could offer 1GB RAM. 

There are also reports that Apple may build Near Field Communication (NFC) technology into the iPhone 5, so you will be able to scan it and use it like a credit/debit card.

There are also claims that a new iPhone will support LTE, the super-fast 4G mobile broadband coming to the US. That’s all very well in the US, where LTE looks set to be rolled out in some areas by the end of 2010, but apparently, the UK doesn’t yet have the infrastructure to support LTE. Airwaves need to be handed over, and there are delays with the allocation of the spectrum. It seems unlikely that LTE will be available to us in 2011.

LTE isn’t the only option, though. WiMAX is another, less capable, alternative. However, as with LTE, it is dependent on the auction of the 2.6GHz spectrum. If we do see faster mobile broadband on a new iPhone it might allow users to make FaceTime calls without joining a WiFi network, for example. 

We aren’t going to hold our breath while we wait for 4G in the UK. There’s even a question that LTE and WiMAX 4G services qualify as 4G – according the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), 4G mobile broadband must be capable of delivering download speeds of 100Mbps in a high-mobility environment and 1Gbps in a low-mobility environment. At present, neither LTE nor WiMAX can deliver 1Gbps in a low-mobility environment, so neither are ‘4G’. 

Whether the iPhone 5 brings 4G or not, it will hopefully offer better reception than the iPhone 4. It is possible to cause that device to lose reception by holding it in a particular way, the simple fix being to keep it in an iPhone case. 

Another change we might see is a movement away from voice calls, with more calls made using data services. This will be even more pronounced should 4G services go live as that would allow data calls to be made without a WiFi network.

When will the fifth iPhone launch? Some point to the summer, in line with Apple’s usual product release schedule, while others suggest it will launch an iPhone 4S sooner, offering a speed boost and fixing the antenna issue. Apple has delayed the launch of the white iPhone 4 until spring 2011, which has led some to expect an updated iPhone then.