(Updated 10/4 at 12:15 p.m. PDT)
It’s been a busy weekend for iPhone watchers with Apple apparently spilling the beans on the debut of an iPhone 4S via a premature slip on iTunes beta 10.5 and an unintentional welcome message to its yet-to-be-official storage service iCloud sent to some customers.
Apple is set to unveil its next generation iPhone and iOS 5 mobile operating system on Tuesday. The details of Apple's announcement are unknown, but the veil of Apple silence is lifting quickly. Apple’s invitation to the October 4 event is tagged “Let’s talk about iPhone,” -- so with the announcement date so tantalizingly close, it’s time to take a look at what we know so far about the next iPhone and iOS 5.
(Updated 10/2 at 7pm ET)
What We Know: iPhone 5
Design: Two theories prevail about what the next iPhone will look like. Theory one is an all-new design device (dubbed the iPhone 5), which would feature a tear-shaped design with a metal back and a slimmer body, as well as a larger display. Some, such as Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, are skeptic over this design. The tear shape would mean that such an iPhone would be thicker and heavier on one side than the other, making it unbalanced when held in landscape orientation, like for gaming.
The second theory refers to the new iPhone as the iPhone 4S, which would look identical to the iPhone 4, but with bumped-up specs. Gizmodo published at the weekend alleged photos from inside Foxconn’s Brazilian factory, showing a new iPhone that looks exactly like the iPhone 4, but carrying a different model number (N90A). 9 To 5 Mac dug in the latest iTunes beta code and found references just to the iPhone 4S, indicating this could be the only phone revealed by Apple this year, featuring a dual-mode GSM+CDMA chip. A survey pointed that the iPhone 5 is the most anticipated of the two by consumers.
Features: Regardless of the design of the next iPhone, there are same sure-fire bets over the specs. It’s expected the A5 dual-core processor currently found on the iPad 2 to make its way to the new iPhone, as well as more RAM (doubled from 512MB to 1GB) and a higher-resolution camera, possibly 8 megapixels.
Availability: October 4 is expected to be only the announcement date of the new iPhone, with Apple Insider tipping that the weekend starting Friday, October 14 is the one you’ll want to put aside for queuing outside your nearest Apple store. If Apple uses the iPad 2 model and releases the phone 10 days after the announcement, then October 14 or 15 could see the new iPhone reach the first consumers.
Carriers & Price: The iPhone is now currently available on AT&T and Verizon, and Sprint is anticipated to be the next in line to get the new iPhone this year, says the Wall Street Journal, but not T-Mobile. The new iPhone is expected to cost $199 with a two-year contract, just as with previous iterations of the device. A lower-cost iPhone is believed to cost just $99 with a two-year contract, taking over from the iPhone 3GS as the least expensive iPhone.
What We Know: iOS 5
Known Features: Developers had a chance to play with a beta version of iOS 5 for a few months now, and Apple showcased the major new features as well. The big changes in iOS 5 include several improvements to Mail and Safari, a notification center similar to Android’s, Twitter integration and iMessage, an instant messaging platform for iOS devices. iCloud, Apple’s cloud storage solution is also integrated in iOS 5, so you can re-download purchased music, apps or books to any of your devices or computer, while the master copy resides with Apple.
Surprise Features: Apple is believed to have kept back from the iOS 5 beta one surprise feature – the integration of voice assisted functions in the iPhone. Anecdotal evidence from the likes of 9 To 5 Mac surfaced over the past few weeks that you will be able to dictate texts and emails your iPhone, as well as have incoming messages read to you by the phone.
Availability: If Apple sticks to previous OS release schedules, then iOS 5 should be available a few days ahead of the next iPhone, in order to avoid Apple’s servers melting down. It appears Apple has prematurely sent out ‘Welcome to iCloud’ emails to some users over the weekend, although the links to activate the service within the email are not yet functional. Apple Insider reported Apple blacked out employee vacations October 9 through to 12 too, which indicates the possible arrival date of iOS 5 to current iPhone 3GS and 4 owners, as well as iPad owners and the 2009 and 2010 models of iPod Touch.