iPhone 5 launch day rumor roundup

Apple's iPhone media event kicks off in a few hours here's what might be on the agenda

WIth Apple's special iPhone media event set to kick off in about 4 hours, here are some last minute rumors we've seen emerge over the past 24 hours. Some are feasible, while some are downright out there. Either way, today is poised to be an exciting fans for Apple fans.

First up is a rumor that Apple will offer the iPhone 3GS as a free device with contract. While Apple typically discontinues products like the 3GS - which is almost 2.5 years old now - the 3GS is still a reputable smartphone. What's more, offering the device for free with contract will help Apple combat the steady stream of Android phones that are similarly available for free on contract. Google likes to tout how it sees over 500,000 Android activations every day, a impressive figure no doubt aided immensely by the deluge of free Android devices floating around. A free iPhone 3GS puts Apple into that same market and will help attack the low-end that Android has been able to enjoy exclusively up until now.

Second, rumor has it that Apple will further attack the low to mid-range end of the market with an iPhone 4 aggressively priced at $49. Is this too good to be true?! Well, yes and no. There has been a lot of evidence pointing towards a lower-cost iPhone 4 and I fully expect Tim Cook to make an announcement to that effect this afternoon. The wrinkle, however, is that the iPhone 4 will reportedly only be available in an 8GB capacity. So a low cost iPhone 4? Sure, just not with the standard 16/32GB capacities.

And now some crazy rumors that just might come to fruition.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Sprint is betting the farm on the iPhone. Specifically, Sprint has committed to purchasing 30.5 million iPhones regardless of whether or not it's able to sell them to consumers.

[Sprint CEO Dan] Hesse told the board the carrier would have to agree to purchase at least 30.5 million iPhones over the next four years—a commitment of $20 billion at current rates—whether or not it could find people to buy them, according to people familiar with the matter.

Broken down over a few years, selling 30.5 million iPhones is doable and with Hesse previously explaining that most Sprint subscribers leave on account of the iPhone, Sprint clearly needs to catchup to AT&T and Verizon and going big with the iPhone may be the only viable strategy it has left.

At the same time, AT&T has a huge head start on Sprint. Verizon, meanwhile, is largely regarded as having the most reliable network in the US in addition to hosting the most subscribers. That being the case, AT&T has a tall order ahead of it.

Which is why the next rumor is so tantalizing and out there, but maybe not completely out of left field.

Boy Genius Report writes that Sprint has signed an exclusive deal to sell a larger screen iPhone 5 (complete with that new teardrop design). What's more, this iPhone 5 is said to be 4G WiMAX compatible. After a few months of exclusivity, LTE iPhones will finally make their way to AT&T and Verizon, the report claims. I wouldn't exactly bet the farm (a'la Sprint) on this rumor coming true, but it's certainly intriguing. Further, it's not outside the realm of comprehension for Apple to provide a specific carrier with a limited-time exclusive deal if the financials tend to work in Apple's favor.

Yet another rumor comes courtesy of Robert Scoble who writes that Apple is working on a new iPad app that might be a game changer.

I’m hearing that Apple is working on a new iPad app that looks a lot like DirecTV without the dish, too. Again, that app will have Steve Jobs’ fingerprints all over it as it will be more expansive than the press is expecting in its content availability. There’s a reason Apple built a 500,000-square-foot datacenter (about twice the size of a Facebook one, by the way) and that new datacenter is for video and the data that video causes to be shared with everyone. Will +Reed Hastings CEO at Netflix be on stage tomorrow to help Apple explain its three-screen strategy? I sure hope so, because that would explain further why Netflix split up its streaming and DVD businesses a lot better than Reed’s been able to so far.

Scoble has a spotty track record with respect to Apple rumors, so take this one with a grain of salt.

As for the iPhone 4S, well, we all know it's going to come with an A5 processor and a better 8 megapixel camera. But a rumor breaking last night also suggests Apple will price its next-gen device quite aggressively. A 64GB (yep, you read that right) model will allegedly run for $299 with a 32GB model running at $199 and the 16GB model seeing an incredible price drop all the way down to $99. Apple is clearly trying to get the iPhone into as many hands as possible this holiday season, and with an iPhone 3GS/iPhone4/iPhone 4S/and maybe iPhone 5! lineup in the pipeline, the stage is set for a vicious smartphone battle over the next few months.

And lastly, and not quite a rumor, is that the star of the show today will be Apple's voice recognition feature in iOS 5 which is tentatively called Assistant. Apple will supposedly be taking voice recognition to the next level and will bring what is, for now, a geeky feature to the mainstream. Indeed, two of Siri's co-founders are believed to be taking part in today's presentation along with Tim Cook and other Apple executives.

All in all, it's going to be an exciting day of iPhone news and announcements!

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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