Apple has begun sending out invites to an iPhone event to be held on Tuesday, October 4, 2011.
The invite, which says "Let's talk iPhone", uses Apple's iOS icons to indicate the date, time and location of the event.
Though the invite does not specify, the event is widely expected to be the launch of the iPhone 5, Apple's latest model in its successful mobile handset range.
However, there has been some speculation that the new model could be a minor improvement on the iPhone 4, perhaps called the iPhone 4S.
It is thought that the new iPhone will have a faster processor, probably the same A5 processor that powers the iPad 2, and a better camera. There have also been rumours that the new phone will have more RAM than its predecessor and will have a slimmer form factor.
Whatever form the new device takes, it is likely to launch alongside iOS 5, the latest version of the operating system that runs the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices. Announced in June, iOS 5 brings an improved notification system, a task management system called Reminders and iMessage - a free, text message service for Apple users.
The early October announcement suggests that the new iPhone will be in the shops within a couple of weeks. The October 21 release date, suggested earlier this month by the tech blog This Is My Next, looks like a good bet.
With Apple now on the record about an October 4 iPhone event, analysts are reaffirming their prognostications about the phone's hardware--and adding an item or two to a growing list of specifications.
Chris Whitmore, Deutsche Bank Equity Research, said in a research note Monday that he expects an iPhone 5 with aluminum unibody construction, better camera, and a slightly larger screen size. No big surprise there.
Ashok Kumar, an analyst at Rodman & Renshaw, said on Tuesday he expects better graphics silicon--not unlike the big performance increase that Apple boasted about for the iPad 2.
Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster probably had the most intriguing speculation this this week, saying today he expects speech-based features for the iPhone.
So, without further ado, here are the iPhone 5 upgrades expected:
More memory: Possibly 1GB of memory, twice the amount in the iPhone 4.
Higher-resolution camera: likely 8-megapixel versus current 5MP.
Near-Field Communication (NFC): for virtual wallets. Possible but not certain.
Voice control: speculation says new tech will allow voice navigation.
Improved graphics: similar to Imagination's PowerVR SGX543 graphics silicon used in the iPad 2.
Dual-core Apple A5 chip: a virtual certainty that the iPhone 5 will get a boost in chip performance.
iOS 5: new iOS with iMessage, tabbed browsing and lots more.
3G: Qualcomm chipset that will allow connection to both CDMA and GSM networks.
But Apple will need to pick up the pace on new phone introductions next year, according to Rodman & Renshaw's Kumar. "The last iPhone came out 16 months ago. Meanwhile rivals are updating products every three to four months," he said.
Conspicuously absent from the list of iPhone 5 specs is 4G. But Kumar says that 4G on Apple devices won't come any earlier than 2012.