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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

iPhone 5 getting closer, bets on early October or sooner



iphone5.jpgWhen it comes to certain tech products, we live in a world of constant rumor, innuendo and conjecture. That's pretty much true with all Apple products but it's particularly true with the iPhone. Everyone's best guess is that the next iPhone 5 will be released in early October, with Oct. 7 and 10 surfacing most often as the actual day. Oct. 7 is a Friday and Oct. 10 is a Monday. Usually a launch like this will happen on a Tuesday or another midweek day. The iPhone 4 was launched on a Thursday. What else do we know? Not much, but here's a recap on the recent speculation.

The iPhone 5 will not be a totally new design and numerous signs indicate it will be more like a better iPhone 4. Upgrades could include a larger screen, faster, A5 processor (the same on as the iPad 2) and a better camera, possibly with 1080p HD video. It's not expected to be a 4G phone. Along with AT&T and Verizon, Sprint is joining the iPhone party although it isn't clear if they will have the iPhone 5 at launch. A rumored second iPhone, dubbed the iPhone 4S, could be a less-expensive version of the iPhone 4 aimed at consumers who prefer prepaid cellular accounts.

Why would Apple want to start selling a cheap iPhone 4 at the same time they release the iPhone 5? More iPhones in the market means more total market penetration and the sale of more apps. Using the same model as movie theaters, the iPhone is the ticket and the apps are the popcorn.

There have been many reports about Verizon, AT&T and Sprint employees being told they cannot take vacation during the last two weeks of September. That doesn't line up with an October launch and adds another piece to the puzzle. Also, Sprint was originally said to be getting the iPhone 5 at launch too. Recent reports indicate that they will start out with the iPhone 4 and likely will get the iPhone 5 later. They are also rumored to be getting their own version of the iPad 2, and some tech sites are musing about the possibility of an iPad that will run on Sprint's 4G WiMax network.

On the carrier and network front, several things happened Tuesday. The Wall Street Journal reported that Verizon will begin offering a $50-a-month prepaid plan with unlimited talk, text and data. Reported to be launching this Thursday, this plan will be available for select phones and seems perfect for the presumed, low-cost iPhone 4S. The plan is to be available at stores like Best Buy, Target and Walmart.

AT&T also announced a new, prepaid GoPhone plan for $25 a month. Beginning September 18 GoPhone users can get 250 nationwide voice minutes and unlimited text messaging as part of the plan. A new International Long Distance plan includes 250 minutes of calling to more than 50 countries each month for just $10 more. And GoPhone plans now include roaming in Canada. These plans don't include data use for smartphones, so it's not clear if they are intended for the iPhone 4S and iPhone launch. Honestly it wouldn't make sense if they were because the iPhone experience is all about the apps.

So there you have it...a bunch of information about the iPhone 5 that mostly cannot be verified. This is Apple we're talking about, so what's new? All I can say is after all this hype, when the iPhone 5 hits my palm it had better be stellar. If not this will end up being the biggest hype over a slight upgrade we've see so far. And unfortunately, if that's the case, it won't be the last.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 3:14pm]


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