With a week to go until Apple is expected to unveil the long-expected and much-discussed iPhone 6, the rumor mill is being dialed up to 11. In this piece I want to take a more careful and conservative look at things, and see if we can't bring expectations levels back down to planet earth.
What do we officially know so far?
The iPhone is both the single most popular smartphone, and the single most profitable. By far.
Very little. In fact, almost nothing.
We know that Apple is to hold an event on September 9, and that event will be held in Apple's home city of Cupertino, California at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts, the venue where the Mac was originally unveiled back in 1984.
Apple has already lifted the veil of secrecy off iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 Yosemite, so we know that there are software refreshes on the way. These are going to form part of the event.
Historically, this is also the time of year when Apple releases a new iPhone too, and given this along with all the supply chain chatter I'm hearing, I'm confident that a new iPhone will be announced.
And for now I'm speculatively calling this new handset iPhone 6.
What do we know about the iPhone 6?
OK, what educated guesses can we make?
The sensible money says the new iPhone will sport a 4.7-inch display to allow it to better compete with products from Samsung, LG, HTC and Sony.
A second new iPhone with a larger 5.5-inch screen has also been rumored.
It's also possible that Apple will also have an iPhone with a 4-inch display, perhaps as an update for the iPhone 5c.
The iPhone 6 will run iOS 8.
Performance-wise, if the iPhone 6 follows the patterns set down by previous releases, then we can expect performance to double that of the current iPhone 5s, at least by Apple's benchmarks. In terms of the actual hardware, we will likely have to wait for a teardown before we find out what actually makes the new version tick because Apple is usually pretty guarded about hardware specs.
I've seen a lot of photos of what claim to be "leaked parts" but in my experience it is almost impossible to separate out fact from fiction.
I expect the pricing structure to remain the same as with the iPhone 5s, and that the base model with start at 16GB, the cramped storage people an incentive to shell out an extra $100 for ten buck worth of storage.
A premium-priced 128GB version may join the lineup at the top end.
There's a pretty strong rumor circulating that Apple has signed a deal with Amex, MasterCard and Vista to bring some sort of wallet feature to the iPhone. This does fit in with information I've been getting from the supply chain, but I'm skeptical that this will use the NFC standard that Google has been pushing.
I'm seeing the iPhone 6 as an evolutionary step, rather than a big revolutionary redefinition of the handset. The look and feel might change, but Apple isn't going to recklessly make crazy changes like Microsoft did with Windows 8. After all, the iPhone is both the single most popular smartphone, and the single most profitable. By far.
All the iPhone 6 needs to do is keep Apple ahead of the competition for a year, not be the smartphone of the decade. And coming up with hardware that can do that is all about balancing out a number of variables.
I have to be honest and say that I'm hazy about the iWatch (something I will expend upon in another piece), but here are some thoughts to bear in mind.
The Apple event is going to be around a couple of hours long (you have to factor in people's attention spans and their bladder capacities), and this doesn't seem enough time for Apple to do the self congratulating bit that forms part of thee events, talk about iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 Yosemite, unveil the iPhone 6 and then go on to unveil and announce a whole new class of product.
This suggests one of the following:
No iWatch unveiling at this event
A teaser, with the full unveiling to come later
The iWatch is a simple accessory for the iPhone that needs little in the way of introduction
If I were a betting man, I'd put a dollar on an iWatch teaser being thrown to us at next week's event, followed by a full launch later in the year, possibly coinciding with the expected iPad refresh.
What about a new Mac/iPod/iPad/iDogbrush?
Probably not. remember, Apple has to cram all this into a couple of hours.