[caption id="attachment_3163" align="aligncenter" width="547"] Apple's iOS 6 will offer features such as Passbook, which groups e-tickets and coupons into a central hub.[/caption] As usual in the months heading into a new iPhone release, the rumor-mill concerning Apple’s next-generation smartphone is now at full buzz. Among the device’s rumored new features: a larger screen, a metallic backing, and—according to a new report from the Apple-centric iLounge, drawing on unnamed sources—a new 8-pin dock connector, which will replace the larger existing one. The Website also claimed that Apple is working on “an as-yet-undisclosed iOS 6 feature that will act as a bridge between its Bluetooth 4-capable devices,” which would allow iOS-enabled hardware such as iPhones and iPods to share data and “even initiate phone calls.” According to Reuters, meanwhile, Sharp Corp. will begin shipping screens for the next iPhone sometime in August. “Apple is equipping the next iPhone with a larger screen after Samsung Electronics unveiled its latest Galaxy smartphone with a 4.8-inch touch-screen,” the wire added. “Sources earlier told Reuters that the panels will be 4 inches corner to corner,” or 30 percent larger than the current iPhone screens. Apple’s iOS 6, expected to ship with the next iPhone, includes revamped maps, deeper integration with Facebook, expanded use of the Siri voice-recognition app, a digital “Passbook” that groups e-tickets and coupons in one location, and tweaked e-mail and calling functionality. That expansion in cloud-based functionality is a prime reason why Apple has plans to expand its current data-center capacity. When will the next iPhone actually make its debut? Apple will hold some sort of product-launching event September 12, according to one of those ever-popular unnamed sources speaking to The Wall Street Journal. Speculation is rampant across the Web over whether Apple will use the event (should it actually occur on that date) to debut the next iPhone, an Apple-branded television set, a smaller iPad, or some combination of those items. As noted by the Journal article, a September product unveiling followed by an actual October rollout would position Apple well for the holiday shopping season. Competition heading into the end of the year could be fierce: Microsoft and its hardware partners will offer devices loaded with Windows 8 during the same timeframe, including the much-publicized Surface tablet that’s seen as a direct rival to the iPad.   Image: Apple