What we (think we) can expect to hear from Apple’s iPhone announcement tomorrow

Oct 3, 2011

The time has finally come. Tomorrow, Apple CEO Tim Cook will take the stage in Cupertino and announce the next step in the evolution of the company’s iPhone handset. And after months of speculation – 18 of them, nearly – it’s fair to say that no one really knows what to expect from Apple at […]

The time has finally come. Tomorrow, Apple CEO Tim Cook will take the stage in Cupertino and announce the next step in the evolution of the company’s iPhone handset.

And after months of speculation – 18 of them, nearly – it’s fair to say that no one really knows what to expect from Apple at this announcement. However, there are a couple of really huge rumored possibilities. First, that Apple is rolling out the iPhone 4S, an incremental refresh of the iPhone 4 with better internals and not much in the way of exterior design changes. The second, a thinner iPhone 5 with a new design, a better camera, and a few other new features. And finally, that either of those phones could be announced, or that Apple could give us both of them.

It’s hard to tell just what Apple has planned, especially because there’s so much contradictory, logical evidence out there.

Tale of Two Phones

New evidence came to light over the weekend that suggested, at least to 9to5Mac, that the iPhone 4S is almost a foregone conclusion. Code found in the latest version of the developer beta for iOS 5, Apple’s mobile operating system, was discovered to contain references to a device called “iPhone 4S,” which was accompanied by a photo of the iPhone 4.

That evidence led 9to5Mac to conclude that the iPhone 4S is the model Apple is announcing tomorrow, which would mean that after 18 months and the release of both the Verizon iPhone 4 and an unlocked iPhone 4, Apple isn’t releasing a brand new iPhone, but just a better version of what’s already on the market.

Leaked cases, leaked information and unnamed sources have also thrown gas on the iPhone 4S fire before now, and it does seem likely that Apple will want to continue to ride the success of the iPhone 4 if it can. The device has been extremely popular and demand for it continues even with the looming Apple announcement this week. If Apple can make the iPhone 4 cheaper and better, it’ll certainly try to do so, given the market right now.

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The true successor: iPhone 5

But there’s also evidence to suggest there’s another iPhone waiting in the wings: the iPhone 5. There has been leaked information about that possibility, too, as well as case designs and unnamed sources suggesting that Apple will spring it on us tomorrow. Reportedly, it could be thinner than the iPhone 4. As TechCrunch points out, Apple has never released a model that wasn’t thinner than its predecessor, and the new device could include the A5 processor chip that Apple unveiled with the release of the iPad 2.

So the iPhone 5 is expected to be faster and better at key functions like video and gaming. There has also been talk of an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, along with a larger screen (which would keep the iPhone on pace with other Android devices) and possibly a touch-sensitive bezel that would allow for new gesture controls.

The information supporting the iPhone 5 seems a little thinner than the iPhone 4S at this point, but there’s one big thing that, at least for me, all but guarantees that Apple will announce at least the iPhone 5 and maybe both phones in Cupertino tomorrow: image.

Reputation to uphold

I’ve brought this up before, but things are a touch on the shaky side with Apple and its investors right now. When former CEO and founder Steve Jobs departed his position as head of Apple (he’s still head of the board of directors) this summer, and Cook took over for him, Apple shares dropped. There has been speculation of how Apple would handle the transition, and whether the company could remain a dominant force in computing, the mobile sphere, and other areas without the visionary leadership of Jobs.

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Rolling out just the iPhone 4S, at least in my view and after an 18-month wait, would seem to confirm that Apple isn’t quite ready for prime time again. One would think that when Cook takes the stage for the first time after taking the big chair, he and the rest of Apple would want to put all the fears to rest. It has been a long wait for Apple fans wanting to get their hands on a new device, and an incremental update for the iPhone 4 isn’t going to be putting existing iPhone owners in long lines. The demand for the existing iPhone model might still be high, but Apple has its cult following to think about, and its share price, which Mashable is reporting could break records, according to some Wall Street analysts, following the announcement.

Apple, it seems, would be making a big mistake by not bringing out another trend-setting handset, especially with Android barking at its heels and continuing to grow its market share. Letting devices running Google’s operating system another six months or more to roll out new devices with new features seems crazy.

I’m betting we’ll see both the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4S.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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