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What to expect from the iPhone event

John D. Sutter, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Apple is expected to debut a new iPhone on Tuesday
  • Rumor has it the phone will be called iPhone 5 or iPhone 4S
  • Tech blogs have been speculating about the phone for months
  • Tim Cook, Apple's new CEO, expected to make announcement at headquarters

Editor's note: This is part of "Our Mobile Society," CNN's weeklong series examining how cell phones and other electronic devices have revolutionized the ways we work, play and communicate.

(CNN) -- It's the worst-kept secret since Adam Lambert's sexuality: Apple is expected to unveil a new iPhone on Tuesday.

There are a bunch of reasons you already knew this. For one, every tech journalist on earth has been writing about the new-now-next-generation iPhone since the company's last "Jesus phone" -- the iPhone 4 -- graced us with its presence in June 2010. You've seen the gossip here, and on countless Apple-focused blogs with apt and obvious names like MacRumors and TheAppleBlog.

The rumor mill, you'll likely recall, revved to full throttle in early September when CNET reported that an Apple employee lost a prototype of the next iPhone -- likely called the iPhone 5 -- in a Mexican restaurant and bar in San Francisco.

To cap it all off, Apple sent out an e-mail on September 27 teasing reporters with phone-related pictures and this not-so-cryptic tagline:

iPhone prototype left in bar... again

"Let's talk iPhone."

So, yeah, we pretty much know what's coming.

And at the same time, we don't. The tech specs of the new phone are still hotly debated, as reporters scour Apple patents, SKU codes and, of course, Bay Area bars for any remaining iPhone-rumor morsels sure to grab the public's attention.

All will become clear at 10 a.m. PT on Tuesday when Apple hosts its iPhone "launch" event at its headquarters in Cupertino, California. But for those of you who are drooling for the details, here's the wisdom du jour from the People of the Internet:

-- The phone will be called the iPhone 5 or iPhone 4S. Or both (see below).

-- It likely will cost $200 with a 2-year wireless service contract from AT&T or Verizon.

-- The iPhone may come to Sprint, too. The Wall Street Journal was reporting Monday that Sprint Nextel has entered into an eye-opening agreement with Apple to buy more than $20 billion worth of iPhones over the next four years. (But the phone won't be coming yet to T-Mobile, as Mark Milian reports).

-- It will be "skinnier, shorter and wider" than before, according to Gizmodo, which is basing these assumptions on supposed leaked cases for the phone and on "informed renderings."

-- PC World (irony noted) expects the iPad's faster processor to squeeze its way into the iPhone.

-- The phone will have a "teardrop" back, meaning it's fatter at the top than the bottom, according to the blog This is My Next. The iPhone 4 is flat on both sides.

-- It may have a "world mode," meaning it could transition onto other cell networks easily.

-- It will have an upgraded, 8-megapixel rear camera.

-- It may employ new voice-recognition features, says Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. His evidence? That e-mail Apple sent to journalists: "Let's talk iPhone." Voice-recognition. Get it?

-- It's possible Apple will unveil not one -- but TWO iPhones.

-- If so, the second likely will be cheaper and will have less storage capacity. Some bloggers have taken to calling it the iCloud Phone, because it could tie in with Apple's new cloud-computing services. (Side note: Al Gore, an Apple board member, gave some credence to the second-iPhoners when he mentioned "the new iPhones coming out next month" during a speech in South Africa).

-- Based on Apple's past iPhone release patterns, the phone (or phones) will likely go on sale later this month (most bloggers predict mid-October).

Of course, as is the case with any Apple product, die-hard fans will buy whatever the new thing is -- no matter what it is exactly, and no matter how much it costs.

The other mysteries surrounding the Tuesday event are all about Apple's leadership.

This is the first product announcement for Apple -- the world's most valuable company -- under the direction of its new CEO, Tim Cook. There's speculation about whether Cook, who is reported to be a private person, will take center stage at the event or yield the spotlight to his deputies.

And there are rumors that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who handed over the company to Cook in August following a medical leave of absence, will make an appearance at the event.

It seems likely that Cook will run the show, and BusinessInsider and plenty of others expect as much. It wouldn't be the first time Cook helped with an Apple presentation -- he appeared onstage in January when the company unveiled an iPhone on Verizon's network -- but it would be his first time as headliner.

But, like the rest of you, we'll just have to hang on until Tuesday -- when all these rumors get zapped with a dose of reality.

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