In just a few days, we will see for the first time Apple's latest smartphone incarnation.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant sent invites out to select media outlets announcing a Sept. 10 event that will "brighten everyone's day," according to the invite.
There have been numerous leaks and reports — rumors and snapshots of various parts and packaging purporting to be of the company's next-generation smartphone, dubbed the iPhone 5S. Also on deck we expect to see a low-cost, budget smartphone, dubbed the iPhone 5C, for emerging markets.
But for now, it's all talk. We have to sit tight and wait a few more days until Apple lifts the lid on what it has up its sleeves.
For now, ZDNet has rounded up the top rumors and the leaks on a plate for your reading pleasure. Tune in at 10am PT / 1pm ET to sister site's CNET live blog on the ground at Apple HQ in Cupertino, California, and ZDNet for instant analysis as it happens.
Two new iPhones on deck?
Not one, but two iPhones will debut, according to numerous leaks and reports. We're expecting the "usual" iterative iPhone in line with Apple's annual release cycle ahead of the busy December holiday sales period, and also a low-cost iPhone for the emerging market.
According to The Wall Street Journal, it's all part of Apple's strategy to "regain momentum" in the smartphone market, which currently pegs the technology giant in second place behind Samsung devices powered by Google's Android operating system. Apple has never before introduced two different iPhone models at the same time, according to ZDNet's Andrew Nusca.
- Read more: Two new iPhone models coming in September | CNET: iPhone 5C colorful packaging pops up in leaked photos | Apple's cheaper and not so cheap iPhone explained (FAQ)
The naming convention: iPhone 5S? iPhone 6?
One of the biggest rumors sparked by rumors and further dubbed by analysts is the name of the long-awaited Western market-focused device. Though it has long been dubbed the iPhone 5S in line with Apple's apparent (albeit haphazard) naming policy, the company may skip ahead and name the device something else, as Apple did when it introduced the New iPad instead of the iPad 3.
However, packaging supposedly outing the low-cost iPhone 5C has been spotted in the wild, which may suggest the 5-series naming scheme. But again, we'll have to wait until for Apple's event September 10 for the final name.
- Read more: iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s: Connecting up the dots in Apple's plans | Cheap 'iPhone 5x'? Don't get your hopes up
Low-cost iPhone 5C: Colorful? Cheaper? China?
The one major unknown, especially in terms of looking back at what Apple has done in the past. Leaks have pointed to three particular things: a colorful device with multiple plastic backings, a device aimed at the Chinese market, and therefore much cheaper and designed for the emerging market.
It would be a strange but daring move for the company to dip into the vast population, considering local smartphone makers already have a strong hold of the market, particularly Huawei, Lenovo, and ZTE. It's expected that China Telecom, the third-largest telco in China that already carries the iPhone, will also sell the two upcoming iPhones.
Leaked photos show what appear to be the iPhone 5C in various colors, including pink, blue, green, and yellow. With a plastic backing, it would be cheaper to manufacture and therefore lower the cost of the device, making it a potentially very popular device in the region. But what sacrifices Apple will have to make to see the device soar to success remains to be seen.
- Read more: iPhone 5C could be first Apple product to use scratch-resistant LiquidMetal | Chinese popstar again leaks suspected iPhone 5C on Weibo | CNET: Japan's NTT Docomo, China Telecom said to get next iPhones
iPhone with larger 6-inch display?
Another rumor published by reputable sources suggests the iPhone maker could increase the size of its display from the current 4-inch (corrected) model to in the region of 6-inches. Should the report prove true, it would make the device one of the largest smartphones on the market. Apple would be reaching out to a new category of "phablet" users — devices that are mid-sized between ordinary mobile devices and tablets.
It's also not the first time we've heard such a rumor, however. Back in June, Reuters sources reported a larger iPhone display — 5.7-inches in size — a little smaller than the latest rumor claimed.
- Read more: Apple testing six-inch iPhone: report | Apple may delay next iPhone on larger display troubles, report says | Apple eyes 5.7 inch iPhone: report | Is Apple going big with the iPhone while others go small? | With cheaper iPhone, Apple to break out iPod segmentation model
iOS 7 to ship with the latest iPhones?
No matter how many iPhones are dished out at Apple's September 10 event, they will all but certainly ship with the latest iOS 7 operating system. The mobile software has been redesigned visually from the ground up with new animations, depth and perspective, and layering. It represents the biggest change to iOS' design since it first launched back in 2007.
While the surface has changed significantly, little has changed under the hood, making the operating experience as easy for those who have used it for years — if not a little "overloading" for the first few runs — but also simple and engaging for new users. It's also packed with a bevy of new features that improve productivity from the get-go.
- Read more: iOS 7 review: Apple's mobile mid-life crisis? | One month with iOS 7: An old soul with style and substance (review) | Apple's iOS 7 hands-on, in pictures (images) | CNET: Apple revamps beta version of iCloud.com with iOS 7 style
Biometric, fingerprint technology for enterprise security
Apple gave its own game away when it bought fingerprint sensor firm AuthenTec for $356 million back in mid-2012. Since then, leaked parts have purportedly shown a fingerprint scanning sensor. It's understood based on the formation of the piece that it could be located near the home button — though not under it as many has previously suggested.
Gunning for business and enterprise customers, particularly this growing number of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) users who telecommute or work from home, including such security features in the iPhone 5S will be a boon for m-commerce, reports ZDNet's Jason D. O'Grady. It could also further Apple's efforts to support government clients.
- Read more: Apple, the iPhone, and the enterprise: What does the future hold? | Apple buys fingerprint sensor firm AuthenTec for $356 million | Apple inks deal with fingerprint security startup Microlatch | Next-gen iPhone, iPad mini may scan your fingerprints | iOS 7 beta 4 contains reference to fingerprint sensor | CNET: Biometric scanner code spotted in latest iOS 7 beta
Faster Apple A7 processor
The latest iPad comes with an Apple A6X chip. The logical progression for a major product upgrade is a far better chip. Apple will likely introduce the Apple A7 processor, which could pack a 30 percent greater punch than its A6 predecessor, reports CNET's Brooke Crothers.
Despite the ongoing legal spat between Samsung and Apple, it's still likely that its main rival in the smartphone space will produce the next-generation chip — at least for now. It's also possible that the next-generation chip is 64-bit, allowing for greater graphics and super-fast device speeds.
- Read more: Apple rumored to be dumping Samsung in favor of TSMC for A7 processors | 15 most wanted features in the next iPhone | CNET: Chatter surfaces about 'fast' Apple A7 chip for iPhone 5S
Champagne gold backed device?
There has been growing fascination with the back of the next iPhone. While the iPhone 4S packed a clear glass back that would inevitably crack when dropped, the iPhone 5's back was replaced with anodized aluminum. There were some complaints, however, that the metal backing scratched too easily, dubbed "Scuffgate" by some, leading to early replacements.
Leaked photos suggest that the design of the device would stay roughly the same as its older iPhone 5, except the new devices would sport a "champagne gold" colored back. Some suggest these are up-market designer versions, compared to the "ordinary" graphite shade backing for regular versions.
- Read more: Champagne gold iPhone 5S images leak | Will Apple sip from a champagne-gold iPhone 5S? | CNET: Purported iPhone 5S pictures point to graphite shade
Iterative changes: Longer battery, more storage, better camera?
One of the biggest complaints about the iPhone is its lack of battery power. In version after version, Apple has improved the battery life of its devices — or matched it if the device packs in features that would require greater power, such as 4G LTE networking. We can likely expect better battery life, particularly if the device is bigger in size, allowing for a larger battery.
The latest iPad comes with a maximum of 128GB storage, allowing heavy-users to shell out even more for double the storage of the previously largest device edition. There's hope that, considering there are significantly more iPhone users than iPad users, and those users are more likely to keep their smartphones with them more often than their tablets, that Apple will bump the storage of the iPhone 5S to 128GB also. This would accommodate double the number of videos, photos, apps, and data content stored in each device.
Considering the smartphone feature wars have quieted down over the past year or two, we are now looking at how the device's features can be improved. As Apple continues to tout its iPhone users as keen photographers, we can expect some improvements — perhaps double-digit megapixels — in the next-generation smartphone. The Nokia 1020, for instance, packs an impressive 41-megapixels snap from its high-resolution camera. And considering Apple prides its iPhone as being one of the most popular de facto point-and-click cameras on the market — albeit with a high markup — the company will want to capitalize on this even more.