So, What's Up With The IPhone 5?

Even as tech journalists everywhere prepare to cover the unveiling of what we've learned will be called the "Kindle Fire"  today, Apple has plopped a "Let's talk iPhone," invitation on their screens. The date of the not-quite-so-intimate tête-à-tête is Tuesday, Oct. 4. The iPhone 5 will be the subject; new CEO Tim Cook will be the messenger.

It's hard to believe that the first iPhone -- "a widescreen iPod with touch controls, and a breakthrough Internet communications device with desktop-class email, web browsing, searching and maps" -- was introduced less than five years ago, on Jan. 9, 2007. It has subsequently sold 110 million devices around the world.

The ubiquity of the device (and its brethren -- don't miss Aaron Barr's piece in Marketing Daily on Android phones today) is evident by scanning the headlines on the Los Angeles Times' online business section this morning. They include: "IPhone app controls drone flying 3,000 miles away" and "App lets you watch video of Conrad Murray-Michael Jackson trial."  



What's different about this version? One commenter on the Times' "Technology" blog sardonically writes: "Reports have it that this latest version of the iPhone may actually sing and dance. Others claim it will deliver a completely accurate full life reading in 30 minutes."

Not yet. What it actually does has been, as usual, kept under seemingly impermeable wraps but that hasn't stopped intrepid reporters from trying to "decode" exactly what the graphics on the invitation mean. Some see significance in the fact that there is "1" message pending on the green phone graphic.

Writes Cromwell Schubarth, the multimedia/research editor of the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal: "Much of the pre-release speculation has centered on whether there will be one or two devices coming. The singular iPhone in the text suggests it is one device that is coming." The L.A. Times' David Sarno concurs, revealing that there were rumors of another model -- a "smaller, cheaper, or faster version of the iPhone 4."

But the International Business Times speculates that the numeral could signify that iPhone 5 "may feature a massive 1GB of RAM" as well as an 8-megapixel camera.

"What wine goes with fish?" asks PC Mag's Sara Yin. "Pretty soon, you may be able to ask your iPhone. The most popular interpretation of Apple's ... invitation ... is that Apple will launch a killer voice recognition feature."

The feature is called "Assistant," Pawel Piejko writes in Gizmag, and it "hooks in to many features of the phone to allow users to set calendar appointments, ask for directions, and find the location of your friends using voice commands. Assistant is also integrated with the Wolfram Alpha answer engine, which will provide instant answers to questions like 'how many inches in one foot'?" It may also have speech-to-text functionality, according to Piejko.

Then there's the rumor of a hard-shelled case, a Facebook iPad app and ... well, you do the dreaming.

The Wall Street Journal's Dana Mattioli, meanwhile, reports on a new Forrester Research study that finds that although tablets account for only a small percentage of overall e-commerce, the conversion rate -- orders divided by total visits -- is 4% or 5% as opposed to is 3% for shoppers using a traditional PC.

"Some retailers are revamping their catalogs in light of tablets, which allow them to add videos, slideshows, how-to demonstrations and 'order' buttons," Mattioli reports.

There may be more than glitter in them 'thar touchscreens.

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