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Apple’s October 4 iPhone 5 event: What to expect [update]

The big day will soon be upon us. Next Tuesday, October 4, at 10am PST, Apple will finally unveil the latest iPhone offering at its headquarters in Cupertino, California. What exactly the electronics giant plans to deliver has been the subject of 16 months of speculation, a tenacious rumor mill that has left many gadget enthusiasts more than ready to know what it’s store. But the long wait has also built up unprecedented demand for the device, with a reported 41 percent of North American mobile buyers now saying they plan to purchase the next-generation iPhone. So, what does Apple have up its sleeve this time? Here, our best estimates of what to expect on Tuesday morning.

Completely redesigned iPhone 5, inside and out
It appears a near certainty that Apple will release the iPhone 5 with a complete redesign. Based on leaked information and a wealth of iPhone 5 cases that have spread throughout China, the next iPhone will have a larger screen than iPhone 4 (between 3.7 inches and 4 inches is expected), that extends from edge to edge. The body will have a tapered “tear drop” profile that gets thinner from top to bottom. The sides will be rounded, much like a 2010 MacBook Air, and some evidence suggests the device will have a metal back, though that detail is less certain than the rest.

Component-wise, the iPhone 5 will have an 8-megapixel camera that’s made to shoot quality shots in low-light conditions. Inside, the device will have a dual-core A5 processor (same as iPad 2), 1GB of RAM, and a dual-mode network antenna that works with both GSM and CDMA wireless signals.

Less-expensive iPhone 4
While some have speculated that Apple hinted at the number of iPhones it would unveil on Tuesday on the event invitation, which shows a “1” on the phone icon (see here), it remains likely that Apple will release a less-expensive iPhone 4, possibly called iPhone 4S. According to , Apple already has a SKU in its system for a new iPhone 4 model – a move that makes some believe the release of an updated iPhone 4 is more likely than a redesigned iPhone 5. It’s also possible that the other new iPhone will simply be an 8GB model, possibly with some updated components. If nothing else, expect Apple to drop the price of the iPhone 4 to make room for the new higher-end device, whatever that may be.

Sprint gets the iPhone
Little doubt remains that Sprint is getting the iPhone. An internal memo leaked at the beginning of September showed that Sprint employees are forbid from taking vacations from September 30 until October 15 due to the “possibility of a major phone launch.” Sprint is also set to hold an event on Oct. 7 – just days after Apple’s iPhone 5 event – to announce a “strategy update.” All these details match up too perfectly for it to be coincidence, if you ask us, so we would be very surprised if Sprint isn’t added to the coveted iPhone carrier list.

4G support in iPhone 5
The iPhone 5 will likely have 4G connectivity, in one form or another. Support for 4G LTE – the kind of 4G Verizon has, AT&T has started to deploy and Sprint is expected to offer starting early next year – would be the best-case scenario, as that technology is expected to become the industry standard over the next few years. But a new report out of China suggests the iPhone 5 will offer HSPA+ technology – which means potentials speeds up to 21Mbps, but not exactly “true” 4G. Also, AT&T would be the only iPhone 5 carrier in the US that could offer the faster connection, as HSPA+ is based on 3G GSM technology, not CDMA, which both Verizon and Sprint broadcast. (T-Mobile also offers HSPA+, but it’s not expected to get the iPhone anytime soon.)

We highly doubt Apple would offer half its US customers a sweet feature without being able to give it to the other half – it’s just not the Apple way. So expect either support for just LTE, both HSPA+ and LTE, or no 4G at all.

A last-minute report from the Wall Street Journal suggest the iPhone 5 will only support HSPA+, not LTE or Sprint’s WiMAX signals. As odd as that seems to us, it also seems increasingly likely that that’s the case. Go figure.

Assistant voice recognition takes center stage
Out of all the new features included in iOS 5, none are expected to shine as bright as Assistant, a rumored voice recognition and navigation system embedded deep within iOS 5 that allows users to operate much of the iPhone 5′s functionality just by speaking. 9to5Mac reports that users will be able to do everything, from get directions to a restaurant  to compose and send text messages and emails, just by speaking. The features expected from Assistant are truly impressive. Out of all the iPhone rumors, this is one of the most exciting — and, therefore; the most disappointing if it proves false.

October 14 release date
In addition to discovering all the details about the iPhone 5 (and whatever else Apple offers), we’ll also find out when we can finally buy the dang thing. According to AppleInsider, Apple will release the iPhone 5 in the US, UK, France, German and Japan on October 14. As of now, that’s the most reliable data we have in terms of release. Luckily, come Tuesday, we’ll know for sure.