It has taken Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) longer to update this generation of its iPhone product line than any other transition since the device was launched in 2007, and the company hasn’t missed a beat: iPhone sales continue to soar despite the age of the iPhone 4, showing just how strongly consumers continue to value the iPhone at this point in history. Next week Apple is expected to unveil a new iPhone alongside the introduction of iOS 5 and its iCloud Web services product, and here’s a short list of what to expect from the event.
—iPhone 5? iPhone 4S?: In the cottage industry that is Apple rumor and speculation, the run-up to this launch has been characterized by its lack of cohesion. Some expect Apple to release a new upgraded iPhone as well as a new lower-cost model, while some expect only one new iPhone but with only a minor upgrade. Unlike last time, when the leak of the iPhone 4 to Gizmodo spilled almost all the beans, there’s not as much confidence in exactly what lies in store regarding the hardware of a new iPhone.
A few things seem likely: the new iPhone will likely contain chips that work on both the GSM and CDMA network families, making it a “world phone” as Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo let slip earlier this year. That would mean Apple wouldn’t have to produce separate versions to support AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon in the U.S., and gives credence to reports that Sprint is also set to carry the iPhone.
It’s also likely to be a be a bit slimmer, based on case designs that have started to appear around the world. Other than that, speculation has run amok.
—LTE? HSPA+?: One of the most important factors about the new iPhone will be the speed at which it can connect to the Internet. Comments from CEO Tim Cook earlier this year appeared to indicate that Apple wasn’t crazy about the battery life provided by current LTE chip designs, but that could have changed or have been a smokescreen for Apple’s intentions. Just this past week, however, a report surfaced out of China that indicated the iPhone 5 (or the next generation, whatever it winds up being called) will run on HSPA+ networks, the kind being used by AT&T as a stopgap before broader LTE networks are available.
—Voice-friendly: One interesting and persistent rumor regarding the next iPhone is that Apple has figured out a way to build novel voice-recognition features into the next iPhone. That’s been a strength of iPhone competitor Android, and several reports have suggested that Apple will use voice-recognition technology from Nuance for voice commands and similar technology from Apple’s Siri acquisition to power a feature that’s being called Assistant: a sort of a voice-controlled dictation app. 9to5Mac’s report on Assistant also suggests that the next iPhone will need more memory and a faster processor to handle that application.
—Start your line-waiters?: Reports have differed, but it seems likely that Apple will announce the next iPhone on Tuesday and save the actual launch date for a few weeks later, all the better to ensure another round of lines outside Apple stores on the big day.
—The known-knowns: In June Apple showed off several features of iOS 5 and iCloud, both of which are expected to accompany the launch of the iPhone 5. It’s very possible that Apple may have saved a few tricks for a last-minute unveiling as to prevent competitors from racing to catch up or because the company wasn’t totally sure that they would be ready for the launch window. That includes things like Assistant, described above, but could also include something like the true music-streaming subscription service that has been rumored for years but has actually seemed like a possibility in 2011.