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What to expect at the Apple iPhone 5 event

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Apple’s next iPhone will be unveiled next week at a press event on Oct. 4, and the iPhone (s aapl) we’ll see there will be the fifth major iteration of Apple’s smartphone. It may not be called the iPhone 5, depending on who you believe, but it will be the iPhone 5, irrespective of name. What it’ll be called isn’t the only thing up in the air, though. It’s time for our rundown of what we probably will and won’t see at next Tuesday’s event.

New iPhone, or new iPhones?

Apple will unveil a new smartphone device next week; that much is all but guaranteed. But there’s still a question of whether or not it might reveal more than one new device. Rumors suggest an iPhone 4S might accompany a new iPhone 5, boasting more minor changes and carrying a reduced price tag, with the possible aim of targeting pre-paid cellular service subscribers and generally expanding the iPhone’s reach.

How likely is it we’ll see two iPhones at next week’s event? Very likely, given Apple’s track record. Generally, when Apple unveils a new smartphone, it uses the existing model as a lower-cost option with 8 GB of onboard storage for entry-level shoppers. At the very least, that’s what it’ll do this time around, too. Some rumors suggest, however, that we’ll see a slightly changed iPhone 4 reborn as a 4S, with tweaked internal specifications (like more RAM) and the same physical design.

I predict we will see both a significantly redesigned iPhone 5 and a more familiar iPhone 4-based model next week. The iPhone 4 is still among the world’s top-selling smartphones, so Apple stands to win big by recasting it for the low-cost market, tens of millions of whom are probably only a couple of hundred dollars’ discount away from jumping on the iOS bandwagon.

A new iPhone that breaks new ground and keeps its edge

The iPhone 5 redesign will likely bring both aesthetic and under-the-hood changes. An A5 processor with 1 GB of RAM and much-improved graphics handling is virtually guaranteed, as is an 8-megapixel camera with a larger sensor designed to work better in low-light conditions. I’d also bet on a slightly bigger screen, like the one we’ve seen in some early mock-ups, and a dual-mode network antenna that works with both CDMA and GSM networks. NFC is another possibility, but I think we’ll see Apple pass for this year at least, since there’s a lot of truth to what Square COO Keith Rabois said Monday about attitude toward the tech at GigaOM’s Mobilize 2011.

Apple will also probably defend sacred marketing ground by improving its advantage in key areas. That means we’ll probably see a slimmer device, since the company recently successfully defended its title of thinnest smartphone in the world to the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority.

After so long a wait, I also expect software to play a big part in this iPhone unveiling. The Assistant feature, described earlier this week in great detail, which should provide system-wide voice recognition features that go far above and beyond what Voice Control is capable of today, will probably take center stage.

iOS 5 as the warm-up act

Apple’s next version of its mobile software platform, iOS 5, will probably kick things off at the event. Apple said the software update for its iPod touch, iPhone and iPad devices would arrive this fall, and an iPhone 5 definitely won’t ship without it. I expect to see its features, which were unveiled at WWDC 2011 and include iMessage and Twitter integration, among others, revisited in detail. We might also see a few new surprises not revealed in the beta, like Find My Friends, but new features could be limited to new hardware.

Save iPods for a rainy day

I won’t be expecting to see any new iPod models at this event. While Apple is overdue with an iPod refresh (new models normally arrive in September), I think it won’t risk watering down the iPhone announcement with discussion of its media player line. The invite backs this up, since it says pretty clearly that the topic up for discussion at the event will be the iPhone–“Let’s talk iPhone” is hardly ambiguous.

One more thing

Don’t be surprised if Apple also has a “one more thing” planned for Tim Cook’s first turn at the helm of an Apple event. Whether that’s revised pricing tiers for iPhone hardware, factory unlocked versions available from the outset, Facebook integration, or something completely unexpected is up in the air. Any predictions you care to add?

10 Responses to “What to expect at the Apple iPhone 5 event”

  1. Wish list: 64 gigs. I’m out of space and it has effected the function of my phone.

    4G capability. It’s time. The iPhone 5 should work on 3G networks AND 4G where available.

    Stronger battery.

    Thermometer: my iPhone should be able to tell me the temperature of the room that I am in. (probably more of a software issue, but…)

    Teleporter: like in Star Trek

    Also, maybe in the future, a wallow talkie feature , like on a Nextel device