What to expect from Apple's iPhone event Tuesday

On Tuesday, Apple will likely unveil a new iPhone, probably called the iPhone 4S.

Apple has a major press event scheduled for Wednesday. And a new iPhone is almost certainly in the works. Here, a man stands outside a new Apple store in China.

Last week, Apple sent out invitations to a press event at company HQ, in Cupertino, Calif. Apple has remained predictably mum on the precise details of the event – ginning up buzz and mystery being something of an Apple specialty – but the invites were emblazoned with the words "Let's talk iPhone."

So, hey, what will Apple call its next-generation smartphone? Well, in the past, all smart money was on "iPhone 5," but now it appears more likely that Apple is going with the moniker "iPhone 4S." Over at Apple Insider, Arnold Kim reports that Vodafone Germany is already displaying a bunch of listings for an iPhone 4S, in variations ranging from 16 GB to 64 GB capacities.

There's another narrative that says the iPhone 4S will be a budget version of a new iPhone 5 – but this is where early rumors start to conflict. All will be clear tomorrow.

As for what the device will look like, Mark Gurman of 9 to 5 Mac speculates that the iPhone 4S will look a lot like the iPhone 4. "[T]he evidence for an iPhone redesign is super slim: no SDK references, no iTunes references, no hints of such a phone being in production, no sources spotting such devices. Nothing," Gurman writes. "If Apple pulls an iPhone 5 redesign out on Tuesday, it will be a major and almost unheard of surprise."

But there is word that Apple will likely incorporate improved voice control features on the new iPhone, probably with the help of an interface called Assistant. ZDNet's James Kendrick says Apple "will no doubt make Assistant very natural for the user," but he warns that the company will have to first deal with a pair of problems: the problem of background noise and the problem of preventing the user from feeling completely silly when he uses Assistant.

"Apple’s implementation of speech [recognition] will have to be done in such a way that doesn’t make the user feel self-conscious when using it," Kendrick writes. "If Apple can deal with these two hurdles, it has a shot at making speech recognition a part of the everyday use for iPhone owners. As stated, this is not new technology by any means but if Apple can get iPhone owners to use it regularly it will be a big move forward in mobile."

On the release date front, Josh Lowensohn of CNET warns that Apple may not launch its new devices instantly.

"With previous iPhones and with iPads there's been a gap between when products are announced and when they go on sale," Lowensohn writes. "Why? It's in Apple's benefit to get a lead on producing units before they go on sale; to give developers a jump on making use of any new features and APIs; and to monopolize another few days or so of news coverage when devices arrive at stores."

We can also look for the Apple event to mark a changing of the guard: Steve Jobs, who handed over the CEO role to Tim Cook earlier this year, may be present in Cupertino, but he probably won't deliver the keynote address. "Tim is perceived as an operations and supply chain guru and that he certainly is, but we believe it is too early to write him off as not a visionary and showman like Steve Jobs," Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu told Reuters.

For more tech news, sign up for the weekly BizTech newsletter, which ships every Wednesday.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.