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iPhone 5, or 4GS, or something else, is coming

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iPhone 4S? iPhone 5? Whatever it's called, it's close, with Apple having announced an announcement that should be the announcement of the fifth iPhone.

Apple has formally proclaimed it will hold an iPhone media event on October 4th. The event will take place at the Apple campus in Cupertino, California and will begin at 10am US Pacific time, so we'll get the news on our 5th October.

As you'd expect from Apple, there are no details available on what devices will be launched and who will be delivering the keynote address, but it's Tim Cook's first big opportunity since he became Apple Inc's CEO.

The typically cryptic invitation just displays a grid of four iPhone icons and three words. The specific icons used are for the Apple apps Calendar, Clock, Maps and Phone; underneath it says "Let's talk iPhone."

The news is consistent with reports, prior to invites being issued, that had placed an iPhone launch on October 4th, so other rumours that the new iPhone will appear for sale on October 14th (in the US, anyway) may come true, also.

It will be for the fifth model of iPhone, whether it's called 'iPhone 5' or not.

Since Apple is so cryptic, people have been trying to decipher the invite.

TUAW had a numerologist (!) decipher what the numbers on the picture means.

He said "The Calendar icon ... Apple is telling us that there will be "tues" ("two" in some ancient foreign tongue lost in history) devices to be announced. The number 4 is below the word Tuesday, indicating that both new iPhones are 'raised above' or more capable than the iPhone 4. Some might say that this is indicating the date of the event, but there's much more to this icon than meets the eye."

Please accept my utter cynicism of this reading. Tuesday, for a start, has nothing to do with 'two': 'Tue' is from the Germanic god 'Tiw', and was the Day of Tiw - just as Wednesday is from Woden's Day.

Here's my reading of the icons: 'On Tuesday 4th at 10 o'clock, Apple is putting one, at least (the '1' on the Phone icon) new iPhone on the map at Cupertino. Simple. (The map shown on the Maps icon is Infinite Loop, the Apple campus in California.

Japanese website Macotakara reports that the 'iPhone 5' - not the 'iPhone 4S' - will launch in the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan on October 14, ten days after Apple's probable unveiling. They may be right, since Apple has blocked employee vacations for October 14 and October 15. Secondly, the CEO of Orange France, Stephane Richard, suggested a launch date of just a day later, on October 15.

Macotakara might be in Japan, but the site has been right before.

I don't think 4th October has any specific significance, it;'s just the day Apple is ready to unveil. In Holland, it's National Animal Day (Dierendag).

It's the day Buster Keaton and Charlton Heston were born, and it was the day Sputnik was launched. All pretty much irrelevant to iPhone and Apple.

Only one device, though? Rumours have been flying around for months that Apple is also working on an 'iPhone 4S'. The only reason I don't discount this out of hand is that Apple has done it before, with the faster iPhone 3S following the 3 in the same case, but what most people want - unless two devices are launched and the iPhone 4S is both cheaper and faster - is a new iPhone, the fifth model, with a dual core processor and, it is rumoured, 1GB RAM, double that of iPad 2. Other expected items include improved graphics handling and an 8-megapixel camera with a larger sensor designed to work better in low-light conditions.

Many think its screen will be slightly bigger, at least in proportion to the rest of the body, and hope it might sport a dual-mode network antenna that works with both CDMA and GSM networks for easier connections around the world.

On the graphics, there was a rumour in January that the iPhone 5 would have a dual core SGX543 GPU. Recently, someone anonymously sent Cult of Mac a video of a preference pane that shows switching between SGX535 and SGX545 graphics processors.

The GX535 is currently used in the iPhone 4; iPad 2 uses the PowerVR SGX 543MP2.

The other GPU in the video, the SGX545, was announced back in January 2010. It's a high-definition GPU optimised for 3D. The specs say it delivers 40 million polygons per second at 200MHz. These chips are made by Imagination Technologiesand and Apple is a part owner of Imagination, so this looks like a good bet, unless the video is fake.

Near Field Communication - something that makes a phone act like a walkie-talkie within a certain range, with other NFC devices - is another possibility, but most think Apple will pass on that technology for this round.

We'll see. Since this will be Tim Cook's first big product announcement as CEO (if it's him making the announcement), there's a good chance of 'one more thing' no one has been counting on. We can hope so.

So when will New Zealand get iPhone number 5? Perhaps by the end of October, although that seems fast. The launch of iPhone 4 was slower for New Zealand, and it verged on a debacle. It was out, it wasn't out, it was available, it wasn't ...

I never did find out what really happened. I did ask, of course - Apple clammed up (actaully, that's Apple's natural state), Vodafone said nothing, and Apple's de facto office in NZ at that time, ministrated via a PR company, seemed utterly mystified by it all. I know, as I went in on the day and asked them what the hell was going on. "You tell me!" Was the response.

It was an unseemly mess, and one Apple can't have been proud of. Reading between the lines - and I must emphasise, this is pure 100 per cent speculation on my part, as I have no evidence at all - I think Vodafone railed against Apple's conditions and that was the germination of a behind-the-scenes fracas that resulted in such unbecoming retail confusion. But who knows? (I'm all ears, anonymous commenters).

Even when iPhone 4 was properly on sale, it took me six weeks - six weeks! - to actually get one. I had the money, I wanted one, but I could not get one. When I finally did get one, it was after queuing for an hour.

What about carriers, though? If the above is true, or for whatever reason resulted in such a messy iPhone 4 launch, Apple has been moving to multiple carriers everywhere. Here, there's only one official carrier, and this displeases people.

Vodafone has probably sold around 200,000 iPhones here by now. (Also a guess.) Telecom has always been very keen to get iPhone, and many New Zealand customers already run their iPhones on non-Vodafone plans.

This is a fairly typical pattern - customers have asked T-Mobile in the States, for example, for iPhones, but that hasn't been possible through official channels. But that hasn't stopped them: the company is claiming over one million unlocked iPhones are already used on the T-Mobile USA network.

Anyway, I strongly suggest we'll have the choice of two carriers by the time iPhone 5 gets here. Let's just hope the rollout goes smoothly.

- Mark Webster mac-nz.com

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