Five years ago, Apple was an upstart in the smartphone business, and the iPhone a curious new device laughed off by more well-established rivals. Now, on the morning of its latest iPhone launch, it is an industry juggernaut, poised to debut a device that some economists say could actually boost the U.S. GDP. An upstart no longer, Apple has become the incumbent in the smartphone market it reshaped.
But that market today is very different from the one Apple upended in 2007. The innovation cycle is faster. And, above all, consumer expectations are higher. So how will Apple meet them?
We won’t know for certain until today’s invitation-only event, which AllThingsD will be covering live. But thanks to the uncharacteristically high number of leaks preceding it, we have a pretty good idea of what sort of device the iPhone 5 — or whatever Apple has chosen to call it — will be.
Sources familiar with the device say it’s “a big step up” from its predecessor, the iPhone 4S. The next-generation iPhone will feature a larger display, LTE support and a smaller dock connector port. It will be slightly thinner, and packed inside its reimagined chassis will be a faster processor and an improved battery.
Beyond that, it’s tough to say.
Improved camera hardware seems a likely bet — Apple has upgraded the iPhone’s photo abilities pretty consistently with each iteration. Support for near field communications (NFC), a short-range wireless standard used for payments, is another possibility, given the new Passbook app in iOS 6. That said, NFC may not yet be widespread enough throughout the retail world for Apple to build it into the device. Finally, we may see a new version of AirPlay that allows users to send audio and video to an AirPlay device without an intermediary wireless network.