It's that time of year again. Apple is set to have it's annual iPhone announcement on September 10th. As usual there's an onslaught of rumors and speculation leading up to the event but what will we likely see?
For the S models, Apple historically tends to bump up the speed, enhance the camera and add an exclusive hardware or software feature. This year appears to be no different but they're adding a new color and maybe a storage boost into the mix as well.
I'll be honest, when I first heard the rumor of a gold iPhone I thought, "yuck!". But after seeing the supposed leaked image of the casing I think it looks great and fits in well with the aesthetic of the current aluminum iPhones. There is also a rumor that the iPhone 5S could get a storage bump up to 128GB. Hopefully that means the other tiers will get bumps as well (32GB, 64GB)
The processor in the iPhone 5S will probably be the A7, which is rumored to be about 30% faster than the A6 in the iPhone 5. That power could come in handy to run all of the new animations and transparency effects in iOS7 butter smooth.
All signs point to the camera sensor being slightly larger to improve low-light performance. There was also a photo taken a while ago which showed a dual-LED on the back of a supposed iPhone 5S. That would also help in those low-light situations and improve the overall white balance of photos taken with the flash. Another rumored feature is the addition of a slow motion mode for recorded video. Allowing the camera to record at 120FPS+ would allow users to slow video down to create more dramatic effects when editing. (Would be great if integrated with popular video apps like Vine and Instagram)
The wild card is whether or not they'll include the long-rumored fingerprint reader on the home button. The latest intel is that the reader is being tested on current iPhones internally and most people tend to think it's coming. It will supposedly sport a silver ring around the home button which would be the only physical difference between the 5S and the iPhone 5. The lack of component leaks from manufacturers makes it still questionable but perhaps Apple was able to keep this feature under wraps somehow.
The implications of a fingerprint reader could be a potential game changer in the mobile space. Apple bought a company, AuthenTec last year that specializes in the technology so it's not far fetched to think they would implement it into their products. Being able to prove the authenticity of a user can have a wide range of ramifications. The use cases vary from simply unlocking your phone, to authorizing iTune purchases, or perhaps eventually turning your iPhone into a digital wallet. If the technology works well it could be a huge advantage for Apple that would give it a big boost with enterprise and government for the extra layer of security alone. I don't expect lots of features out of the gate, creating another layer of security alone would be a huge added benefit in the beginning.
We seem to know nearly everything there is to know about the iPhone 5C, at least superficially. It's basically an iPhone 5 more or less in a plastic (colorful) shell. There are however a few unanswered questions. What kind of camera will it have? Will it support LTE? Siri? Initially it was assumed the 5C was Apple's way to get more of an inroad with emerging markets and developing countries like China, India, etc. But more evidence is pointing to this being more about practical reasons than some larger play to make a cheap iPhone.
The iPhone 5C will be 4 inches and have a Lightening connector (like the iPhone 5). Those two distinctions may be the biggest reasons why the iPhone 5C even exists, it's a bridge device to speed up adoption. Getting rid of the iPhone 4 & 4S sooner rather than later, ditches the 3.5inch screen and the dated 30-pin connector for good. The question is will they continue to sell the iPhone 5 in-between the iPhone 5C and the iPhone 5S? Or will Apple simply discontinue the iPhone 5 and sell only a high-end and low-end model. Getting rid of the Free, $99, $199 tiered system seems counter productive but I can see an argument as to why to change it up.
Since the iPod, Apple has been about giving customers clear and easy choices when buying their products. Whether it's iPods, iMacs, or MacBooks, the models are few and the differences are mostly obvious. The current iPhone situation is a bit foggy at the moment. The iPhone 4 and 4S look alike but one doesn't have Siri and has an inferior camera. The iPhone 5 looks similar to the cheaper models and appears to only be a little bit taller and thinner. To a first time smartphone buyer what is really the difference between the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 5 and is it worth spending $199 for? I think Apple would like to make those differences more apparent like they did with the iPod line.
*Another note on the "low-cost iPhone": When has Apple ever chased the low-end of a market? Even with the iPod Shuffle it remained a semi-premium product when compared to other MP3 players with similar capabilities at the time. Apple has never played the market share game, it's always been about profit margins and maintaining a certain prestige of the brand through quality, reliability and customer service.
The icing on the iPhone cake will be the release of the much anticipated redesign of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS. The update is such a major overhaul it will make everyone's iPhone feel somewhat new again. After using iOS 7 for a while I'm curious to see what ordinary people's reactions will be after installing the update. The immediately noticeable changes of iOS 7 are more about how it looks and feels rather than how it works. After using it for a day, most users should feel right at home. There are however tons of internal and behind the scene changes that will effect how apps run, look and operate in the OS. I'm excited to see what developers Apple brings on stage during the announcement and what they'll have to show using iOS 7's new APIs.
Apple briefly talked about their new Pandora competitor, iTunes Radio at their WWDC event. I'd expect them to give this new service a bit more attention this time around. It's a free, ad-supported radio service that works pretty similar to Pandora and is located inside the Music App. If you happen to pay for ITunes Match ($25/year), iTunes Radio will be ad-free.
Apple typically holds a few features back from their initial OS announcement to show off during the release. Said features are rarely known ahead of time and I'm very curious to see if any will be iPhone 5S exclusive.
Rumor has it the iPad version of iOS 7 is running a bit behind and may release at a slightly later date than the iPhone version.
There are some holding out for a surprise announcement of their wearable computer they're working on but all signs point to 2014 for that. I can't see them mentioning anything that will take the attention away from the iPhone at this event, not even an Apple TV.
There could be some iPod announcements here but any iPad and Mac news, including OS X Mavericks 10.9, will probably be saved for another show possibly in late October like last year. But you never know...