Apple iPhone Rumor Mill Reaching Full Throttle

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - We're nearly half-way through the second quarter of 2013 and that means we're getting closer and closer to the time that Apple ( AAPL) will be announcing plans for their next iPhone.

As could be expected, rumors about what Apple might be planning have started to ramp-up. So, let's see what's out there.

One thing we do know is that Apple will attempt to improve the product while keeping supply lines open and keeping production costs down. After previous bottlenecks (especially the one concerning touch screens) Apple is sensitive about making sure it can meet demand.

Apple was gained 1.1% to close at $463.84 to pare its 2013 decline to 13%.

According to a report in Japanese business daily Nikkan Kogyo Apple has tapped Sharp to manufacture at least some of the touchscreens for the next iPhone model. In recent months, Sharp recently received cash infusions from both Qualcomm and Samsung.

Sharp's output will reportedly be in addition to touchscreens supposedly being manufactured by a new company cleverly named Japan Display - a joint venture by Hitachi, LG Display ( LPL), Sony ( SNE) and Toshiba(TOSBF).

From all anyone can tell, at this point, the next iPhone's new screen will contain similar features to the current iPhone 5's terrific 4-inch Retina display.

Then there's the matter of what will surround the next design's touchscreen. Rumors have it that Apple is working on a new plastic casing for the handset along with a whole bunch of upgrades inside. There is talk of a new processor, possibly to be named the A7 SoC (System-on-a Chip), an upgraded operating system, iOS 7 and, for the first time, the possibility of an integrated fingerprint security system. All of these are quite plausible, if not exactly certain, at this point in time.

What will the next phone be named? Speculators are running wild. Will it be the iPhone 5S? iPhone 6? Or something completely different? It's a point of fact that will surely keep everyone guessing for now.

The largest rumor of all is whether Apple is planning one or more than one new phone. Some wags believe Apple is busy creating both a premium new smartphone and a second, less expensive new model. Instead of selling older designs, a new, cheaper iPhone would compete with the constant stream of mid and low-priced new Google ( GOOG) Android models that enter the marketplace each month.

As for a possible release time, if, as reported in Japan today, Sharp begins producing new iPhone screens next month then we could hear about the next iPhone(s) as early as this summer. It seems the exact dates should be perfectly timed for the next back-to-school shopping cycle.

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

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Gary Krakow is TheStreet's senior technology correspondent.