Mobile

iPhone 5, or iPhone 4S? Here’s what we expect to see from Apple

Expectations are extremely high for Apple’s new iPhone event tomorrow, where the company will unveil its latest flagship mobile device. Apple’s new chief executive, Tim Cook, will also be under pressure to repeat the success of the company’s last CEO, Steve Jobs, who left the company in August. Janney Capital Markets analyst Bill Choi said today that he expects Apple to sell around 107 million iPhones this year.

Here’s what the VentureBeat team expects to see when Cook hops on stage tomorrow.

Senior Editor Devindra Hardawar: Something new, but also something cheap

New Apple devices never fail to stir up the rumor mill, but the run-up to Apple’s next iPhone has been the most maddening yet: It may be called the iPhone 5, or the iPhone 4S. It could be a complete redesign of the iPhone 4 — or not. For every juicy, and seemingly valid, rumor we get, there’s a report that throws cold water on our excitement.

At this point, I think Apple would be crazy not to deliver a bold new iPhone. Why else would the company delay its usual summer iPhone launch into the fall? Judging from the plethora of iPhone 5 rumors, I’m fairly certain that Apple is working on a completely redesigned model. Ultimately though, it doesn’t matter if it’s called the iPhone 5 or the iPhone 4S — it just needs to be different.

More hazy is Apple’s plans for a low-cost (and potentially free) iPhone 4 — which could be the reason for the recent spat of iPhone 4S rumors. Apple has previously made its last-generation iPhone its low-end offering (see the $50 iPhone 3GS). Now that the iPhone 4 will no longer be the high-end model, it makes sense for Apple to find ways to make it cheaper to build and sell. And such a device could be paired with Apple’s iCloud service, making it a perfect entry-level solution for many consumers.

Lead Writer Dean Takahashi: The iPhone 5 — and the kitchen sink — are en route

Apple has a wide possibility space. It could push forward on a number of expected fronts, but still surprise us with something new. The rumors this time are focused on a new high-end smartphone, the iPhone 5, with features such as Voice Assistant, based on artificial intelligence technology that Apple acquired from Siri. I expect that Apple will launch this device as the spearhead for staying ahead of Google Android devices. And the new iPhone will mean an update to the iOS software as well.

But Apple might also move into low-end smartphones with an iPhone 4S. The company might launch its iCloud music service, and it might sign up more carriers such as Sprint to carry the iPhone 5. If Apple does all of these things, then it will be clear that the company has the bandwidth to do some serious multitasking.

Lead Writer Matthew Lynley: Something completely new

There were a few reports circulating the net over the weekend that Apple would unveil an iPhone “4s” — which suggests an incremental upgrade to its smartphone lineup similar to the iPhone 3GS. That new phone would likely have a larger hard drive, a new processor (likely Apple’s A5 processor, seen in the iPad 2) and some other upgraded specifications. Apple would not have to significantly retool its manufacturing process to churn out an incremental upgrade for the iPhone. It would also give Apple the option of producing a lower-priced smartphone option with the iPhone 4, similar to what the company did with the 3GS while selling the iPhone 4.

An iPhone 4S incremental upgrade leaves the door open for Apple to completely surprise us with something new. It could be a totally new model of the iPhone (an iPhone 5-level upgrade or maybe a smaller, different form factor aimed at a different audience) or a new version of the iPad with a smaller form factor. Given the success Samsung has seen with multiple form factors in its tablets, I don’t think it would be a complete surprise to see Apple drop a 7-inch version of the iPad at its event tomorrow.

Executive Editor Dylan Tweney: An incremental upgrade is on its way

The evidence that Apple is working on an incremental upgrade to the iPhone 4, possibly called the iPhone 4S, is pretty clear. It will have incremental upgrades to the previous model: A faster, A5 processor; probably more memory; possibly a better camera. It seems it’s already being manufactured in Brazil, even. Sorry to disappoint you, Apple fans: I don’t think there’s going to be an iPhone 5 tomorrow.

The argument that Apple is working on two phones, an iPhone 5 and an entry-level iPhone 4S, is weak. The company already has an entry-level phone, after all. It’s called the iPhone 3GS, and it sells for $49 with contract. The most interesting news will have to do with iOS, which will add a voice-control feature called Assistant.

I want to believe there will be an iPhone 5 tomorrow. But I don’t think there will.

Senior Editor Heather Kelly: Look for speed and fresh iOS features

Tuesday’s iPhone event is being held at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters instead of the spacious Moscone center. It’s doubtful Apple picked the smaller location for budgetary reasons, so I’m going to speculate it’s to manage our expectations.

We can definitely expect a new iPhone on Tuesday, but I predict a beefed up iPhone 4 called the iPhone 4S instead of an iPhone 5. Hardware changes will be subtle: The phone will be faster, hold more juice, and maybe get a few more megapixels on the back camera. It will sport the Voice Assistant features we’ve heard about, Apple will trot out a few other iOS 5 features that work exclusively on the new iPhone, and it will release iOS 5 to everyone. Finally, Tim Cook will tell the audience to look under their chairs and yell, “Everyone gets a free discontinued Shuffle!!!”

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