Apple has scheduled a big press event tomorrow, at which it promises it will "brighten everyone's day". This, we presume, is a veiled reference to the colorful plastic iPhone "lite," possibly called the iPhone 5C, that has been revealed in a number of leaks through the summer. But what else may Apple have planned for us tomorrow? (We'll be live-blogging the entire event here).
Though the jury is still out, and a strange Apple Canada slip-up suggested this year's phone would be called iPhone "6", the current belief about the new flagship iPhone due to be revealed tomorrow is that it is going to be called the iPhone 5S. This is supposedly in line with the phone's status as a souped-up version of last year's iPhone 5—and the naming convention follows what Apple's done before with the 3GS and 4S.
In terms of hardware, we assume the 5S is going to be the same shape and size as the iPhone 5, and sport a screen of the same dimensions and resolution (though it may, possibly, have updated LCD tech). The few leaks about the shell so far suggest that it'll be identical to the iPhone 5, but sport a slightly larger aperture on the rear for a dual-LED flash that will help the phone shoot better low-light imagery. The phone may come in a champagne-colored edition, as well as a greyish graphite and white.
The big changes are inside the phone. In recent months several leaks have suggested that Apple is going to include a new, faster A7 CPU in the device and that though it will sport a camera of the same resolution—8 megapixels, possibly greater—it will have a bigger, F2.0 aperture for better low light performance—a spec that may take some wind out of Nokia's PureView sails.
But the hottest bit of internal tech is still, at this point, just a rumor: The iPhone 5S is said to sport a fingerprint sensor beneath or possibly next to the home button. Some recently leaked parts for the 5S's home button seem to suggest the component is much more complex than in earlier iPhones. And a very recent rumor suggests the 5S's home button will lose the iconic square logo and instead be delineated by a surrounding silver ring (like the grey rings on Apple's press invite).
A new Apple patent freshly unearthed by PatentlyApple adds fuel to this fire as it suggests a fingerprint sensor may be combined with NFC circuitry as part of the same component. In the images, the NFC antenna "patch" seems to be to the right of the fingerprint-sensitive home button. This configuration agrees with the leaked iPhone 5S home button.
Fingerprint tech would presumably leverage IP from AuthenTec, a company Apple bought some while ago, and it could be critical to improving iPhone user data security as well as preventing issues like kids downloading hundreds of dollars of apps by accident. More importantly, a definitive user ID from a fingerprint could be how Apple plans to secure an NFC payment system, something that has long been rumored.
From recent component leaks, the device that we're now assuming will be called the iPhone 5C, for "color," is technically the iPhone 5's guts wrapped up in a cheaper, colorful, plastic chassis. The logic behind this is simple: Apple's been making the 5 for a year now and has likely been able to achieve production line streamlining that has dramatically reduced the cost of manufacture. By offering a low-cost iPhone with the same screen size as the flagship 5S device, Apple simplifies the job of third party app developers, who don't have to cater to smaller screens. The 5 is also a pretty powerful machine, capable of running the full feature set of upcoming iOS 7 software.
But will the 5C actually stand for "China"? Some leaked data from a Chinese tech site that purports to show the upcoming iPhone lineup doesn't mention the 5C, but it does show the 5S with a different home button and rear flash. Yet we've heard strong rumors that Apple's signed a deal with China Telecom, the world's biggest carrier, and that presumably it would offer both the top-line 5S and cheaper 5C to address a Chinese market that is flooded with cheap Android devices. Apple does also have a press event scheduled for Wednesday, September 11 in China.
It's been suggested by this recent leak, and earlier ones, that Apple will keep the iPhone 4S on sale as a very cheap low-end device, alongside its newer brethren.
We're convinced by the 5C rumors, and are certain it'll be available globally. We're not so sure about the 4S.
iOS7 is Apple's bold attempt to remake and even reimagine its mobile operating system, ridding it of its earlier out-of-fashion skeuomorphic graphical design and adding in some features that a more smartphone-savvy public may expect. The colorful design of the OS is polarizing, even controversial, but compared to stock Android, and even Samsung's deeply-adjusted version of Android, iOS 7 does appear fresher and bolder.
Many of iOS 7's features have been known for a while thanks to leaks from the beta-tester developer community, but it's possible Apple's kept some features—like an NFC-enabled payment app—hidden until the code is officially launched.
iOS 7 is expected to be available concurrently with the new iPhone release, which may come as soon as this Friday, September 13th.
Apple may also announce the release date for its new Mac operating system, OS X Mavericks. Recent rumors have suggested that Mavericks may face a delay in availability and won't hit the streets until the end of October.
It's possible Apple may announce a refresh of some of its Mac range alongside the iPhone event (or simply release the news via a press release so as not to distract from the main iPhone event). New iMacs with faster chips and, just possibly, retina screens may be revealed. Apple could also announce the availability of its cylindrical Mac Pro hardware, which it revealed at WWDC with a launch date later in 2013.
Will Apple use the iPhone event to reveal new iPads? It's possible—enough new iPad hardware has leaked out over recent days to suggest that production is ramping up on these devices.
Apple's iPad 5 is expected to take design cues from the current iPad mini, and have a thinner profile and a narrower bezel alongside the same sized screen. The iPad mini, it's hoped, will get beefed-up chips and possibly a retina display to match its big sister and rival high-res Android peers.
Will Apple surprise us with new Apple TV hardware? Many viewers would love that to happen, and recent rumors suggest it might be possible.
Is this a full TV? Unlikely—we've not heard a peep about any Apple television sets arriving, so either Apple's managed to totally clamp down on leak security or there's no hardware to leak.
What's now thought to be possible is that Apple will reveal new code to power the existing Apple TV, and release the hardware later. But the big question, especially in light of Sony's new game-capable PS Vita TV, is whether or not Apple will bring apps to the Apple TV to go along with iOS 7's support for Bluetooth game controllers.
And there's one more thing: A rumor about Apple's iWatch. Many an Apple aficionado is likely hoping that Apple will reveal its long-rumored smartwatch at tomorrow's event. After all, there's a 100-person team working on it, and there have been some weird trademark filings.
As with the Apple television, we're not convinced about the possibility of an iWatch launch tomorrow—we've simply seen no hardware leaks. But then again, Samsung's new Galaxy Gear was kept under pretty tight wraps before last week's reveal...so we're not 100% ruling out a reference to iWatch.
The only thing that will end all the speculation, of course, is the event itself. Join us tomorrow—we'll be live-blogging the entire event from Cupertino, New York City and beyond.