After months of speculation and rumor, it is starting to look increasingly likely that Apple will launch the iPhone 5, the latest version of its successful smartphone, at some point during the month of October.
Whatever date is finally chosen, this will be the first major product launch for Apple under the leadership of Tim Cook, who took over as CEO of the firm when Steve Jobs stepped down last month. The event will also almost certainly be held on the company's home turf, in the Town Hall auditorium of its Cupertino campus.
This marks a change from most previous major product demonstrations, which were typically held in San Francisco.
Screen Issue Could Delay Release
October 4 is currently being cited as the most probable date for the launch, although no official confirmation has been given by Apple that any event will even take place.
Additionally, rumors have been circulating about a potential manufacturing defect affecting the touchscreen of the device that could delay the final release date.
New Camera, New Built-In Apps - and Twice as Fast
When it does come out, the next iPhone will almost certainly feature a powerful new 8-megapixel camera and greatly increased processing power, enabling it to run up to twice as fast as existing models.
The device will also run iOS 5, a significant update to the Apple mobile operating system. Some of the new features of iOS 5 include increased interoperability with Twitter, a dedicated folder called Newsstand for storing newspaper and magazine app subscriptions, and a Reminders app.
One of the most exciting new features could well be the new Assistant voice-control system, which allows users to use voice commands such as "Make an appointment with Jane Smith" to add a note in the calendar or ask "How do I get to Times Square?" to have the GPS give directions. The device will likely see its RAM upgraded to 1GB to power this feature.
Upping The Ante Against Android
What will the release of the next iPhone mean for the smartphone market? These improvements, together with the buzz that surrounds any new iPhone launch, will help ensure Apple continues to dominate much of the conversation around smartphones.
However, potentially more interesting in terms of the company's battle against Google and its Android operating system, which has been making major inroads into the smartphone market over the past couple of years, is talk of a cheaper iPhone.
Former US Vice-President Al Gore, who sits on the board of Apple, recently spoke of "new iPhones" being released next month, his use of the plural giving credence to the theory that the company could be about to launch a mid-range model that would open up a whole new section of the market to Apple.
Key Statistics - Global Smartphone Sales (source: IDC)
- In the second quarter of 2011, the worldwide mobile phone market grew by over 65% year-on-year, and total shipments surpassed 100 million units for the third quarter in a row.
- More than 106 million units were shipped in 2Q11, versus 64 million units sold in the same quarter of 2010.
- As of 2Q11, the top 5 mobile phone vendors in the world, by quarterly shipment volume, were Apple (20.3 million), Samsung (17.3 million), Nokia (16.7 million), RIM (12.4 million) and HTC (11.7 million). All other vendors combined accounted for a total of just over 28 million shipments.