5 Questions For Tuesday's Rumored iPhone 5 Launch

 Apple

Apple is holding a “Let’s Talk iPhone” press event at its Cupertino headquarters on Tuesday morning (10 am PT/1 pm ET).  Most analysts expect Apple to introduce a new iPhone, updated iPods, and new software features.  But exactly what the tech giant has up its sleeve is a mystery. Here’s five questions going into Tuesday’s event:

1. Is Apple releasing an iPhone 5?  Maybe not.  AT&T is already selling iPhone 5 cases based on a rumored new design, even though it's far from certain that is what will be announced by Apple. Apple released a beta of the newest version of iTunes last week that contained code referencing an iPhone 4S--a souped up version of the current model--but nothing about an iPhone 5.  One thing seems certain: Apple is going to discontinue the 3GS and make the current iPhone 4 the new entry-level budget model.

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2. Is the iPod classic dead?  Probably.  The last model in Apple's line-up that features the original click wheel and a hard drive appears to be on its last legs.  It was the only model not to get an update last year and Apple removed click wheel games from iTunes last week.  Though it is still popular among DJs and music aficionados who want to carry around thousands of songs, Apple seems willing to let it go in favor of a larger capacity iPod Touch.

3. Is Voice Assistant the new killer app?  Absolutely.  Apple is rumored to be introducing voice recognition as the next great feature for the iPhone.  With Assistant users will be able to issue spoken commands like "schedule a meeting with Tom at noon on Tuesday" and have the iPhone add it to your calendar.  Assistant will also include a voice-to-text feature so users can say "Text Sally that I'll be late" and the iPhone will convert that to text, put it into an SMS message, and send it.  Cool.  The Assistant is also rumored to be able to speak back in a conversational style so if a user says "text Sally" it might respond "Sally Stevens or Sally Smith?”  Even cooler. One big clue that this is coming is  is calling the event “Let’s Talk.”

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4. Will the new guy do okay?  Yep.  This is Tim Cook's first solo product introduction since he replaced Steve Jobs as Apple CEO on August 24.  Apple did a couple of events without Jobs while he was on medical leave in 2009-2010, but now the spotlight is totally on Cook.  He may not have Job's stature or charisma, but Apple PR is such a well-oiled machine that he'll do fine. Think of Cook as Leno to Jobs' Carson.

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5. Will we get a surprise?  We hope so.  Jobs was famous for saving the best stuff for last, announcing "one more thing" just when an event seemed over.  Famous "one more things" include the Macbook Air, the iPod touch, and Facetime video calling.  If Apple has something really cool planned for Tuesday expect it to come at the very end.

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