What to expect from Apple's next iPhone event

If September 10 is the date for the great reveal, here's what may happen

Signs point to Apple holding another of its trademark special events next month. According to a report from AllThingsD published last weekend, and confirmed on Monday by The Loop, Apple will launch the next iPhone on September 10. So mark your calendar, get excited, and start coming to grips with the fact that your current iPhone is about to look seriously outdated.

On the face of it, that September timing makes sense: Apple launched the iPhone 5 on September 12 of last year, and the company has been pretty consistent about a once-per-year revision of its smartphone line-up. The lone exception to that pattern was the iPhone 4S, which the company announced in October 2011, officially shifting the product line from a summer release schedule to a fall release. That release window better positions the smartphone for sales in the company's usually blockbuster holiday quarter.

If past years are any indication - and in the field of Apple tea-leaf reading, what else is there? - a launch event on September 10 would suggest that pre-orders for the phone would open on the Friday of that week, the spooktacular September 13. The phone itself would likely go on sale the following Friday, the much less spooky September 20. Those intervals would be consistent with Apple's behavior in the cases of the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4S.

Of course, those dates will probably apply only to select markets around the world--likely, the U.S., UK, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, and Japan. Last year, with the iPhone 5, Apple added both Hong Kong and Singapore to the launch list; while the company would no doubt like to tack on mainland China, which CEO Tim Cook sees as a growth opportunity for the iPhone, issues of supply chain and regulations may prevent such a day-and-date release. Even so, expect Apple to proclaim a quick international rollout--perhaps, its quickest ever.

One date likely to be consistent across the globe, however, would be the release of iOS 7. If prior years are any indication, that latest update to Apple's mobile operating system would appear a couple days before any new iPhone debuted. Based on the September 10 launch event, we'd ballpark iOS 7's release on September 18.

The plural of iPhone

Unsurprisingly, the tech press has of late been chock-a-block with iPhone rumors. While we obviously won't know with certainty what new hardware Tim Cook and company will announce until they, you know, announce it, we already have a clear picture of what announcements many folks expect.

There are, for example, rumors that new iPhones could come in different colors--and reports that iOS 7 includes options for the software to match the color of the iPhone it's running on. Some rumors also suggest that these colorful iPhones might actually be a new, cheaper version of the iPhone 5, perhaps made with a plastic casing instead of aluminum.

And if that's true, that might mean that said new, cheaper, colorful iPhone is released in addition to a new "full-price" iPhone as well. What's less clear--and we regret the implication that iPhone rumors really have much in the way of clarity--is precisely how a cheaper iPhone might be priced: If history is a guide, a hypothetical new iPhone 5S would start at $199, making the iPhone 5 $99, and the iPhone 4S free, albeit with two-year contracts.

A new, cheaper iPhone (which some have dubbed the iPhone 5C) would presumably alter that pricing equation. The 4S, for example, might drop out of the line-up entirely, with the new 5C supplanting it. Alternatively, the 5C could be positioned at a $50 price point, with the iPhone 5 becoming the new free phone, and the iPhone 5S costing just $100. Or any of a variety of other dollar-based permutations.

But the truth is that only Apple knows. And it will tell us--and you--come September.

Another rumor surrounding the new iPhone: It could feature an integrated fingerprint sensor, perhaps even built right into the device's home button. That would potentially offer applications for security, authentication, or ... giggles?

As long as we're going out on a limb, here's one thing we're willing to predict with supreme confidence: No, Apple won't be changing up the Lightning connector. Last year's shift from the 30-pin dock connector of old to the Lightning port of the future was a long-in-the-coming change, and Apple clearly sees Lightning as its connector for many years to come.

What is likely to change are the under-the-hood technologies that Apple improves annually: the iPhone's camera, processor, and Wi-Fi capabilities. In the last category, the iPhone could gain support for the newer 802.11ac standard, which has already been rolled out to the latest Macs.

Somewhere, beyond the phone

Last year, Apple unveiled a slew of iPod updates at its September event. The iPod nano seems to get makeovers more often than Joan Rivers. The iPod classic has evaded death for years; might this be the year Apple finally retires the only iPod still using a conventional hard drive, or will the little iPod that could keep on keeping on?

The surer iPod bet is that a new iPod touch will debut alongside any new iPhones. It will likely incorporate many similar improvements as the iPhone, though potentially lower-power variants of those features. We can, however, say with authority that many people will continue to wrongly refer to that device as an iTouch.

Last year also saw the premiere of iTunes 11. Apple reportedly already has a newer version of iTunes out for testing amongst developers, integrating the iTunes Radio feature that the company announced back in June. New iPhones almost always come with iTunes updates at the same time, so announcements on that topic seem fairly likely, too.

Often, the most exciting Apple announcements are the ones that we're not expecting at all. Just a couple years ago, no one expected Siri, with the only rumors about that technology appearing within hours of that Apple event's kickoff. So while we know what we're expecting, perhaps the single thing to anticipate most eagerly from Apple on September 10 is the unexpected.

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