Here's the skinny: the following information is a set of educated guesses, analyzed facts turned into what I feel will be exactly what Apple will release at their next major keynote event as far as mobile devices go. First, I do not think that the device will have a "5" in the title. Although it's been an eternity in human time since the last iPhone release, that being the iPhone 4 for Verizon, in Apple time it's only been nearly enough time before the next massively successful release. What I believe here instead is that all four of the biggest carriers in the USA will get the newest version of the iPhone inside October of 2011 and that this device will hold more water than just hardware improvements.
First, starting right around the time we heard Verizon's then incoming CEO say he expected the iPhone 5 to be released in the fall, it became apparent that inside 2011 there'd be some sort of iPhone or another. At the moment I believe that when Lowell McAdam literally said "iPhone 5", he actually simply meant whatever Apple plans on offering next with the iPhone name attached. Next we heard one of AT&T's VPs say to groups of managers that they should “expect things to get really, really busy in the next 35-50 days, so prepare your teams accordingly.” This also places a large launch inside October compared to the August 19th reveal of the supposed warning. These along with essentially every other leak and tip have noted late September / early October specifically or have noted a timeframe inside 2011.
Next there's the iPhone 5 timeframe. We've been hearing again and again that what's called the "iPhone 4S" would be showing up inside or around September of 2011 while the iPhone 5 wouldn't be showing up until 2012. There's a nice infographic post out there from all the way back in April that, believe it or not, seems to have stayed pretty much true to what we still are finding very possible for the iPhone 5. This list includes a possible dual-SIM, larger screen size, metal backing instead of glass, and an 8MP camera.
Several of these rumored specs have overlapped with those of the iPhone 4S. There's word out there that the iPhone 4S has already been seeded to app developers and that it would have the same or a similar A5 chip inside as the iPad 2. Another feature supposedly slated for the iPhone 5 that I certainly wouldn't be surprised to see on the iPhone 4S first is GSM/CDMA World Phone capabilities. As this 2011 release is what I believe Apple will be planning as an "inexpensive" iPhone whose specifications aren't quite as top-grade as the current iPhone 4 made to have an even more massive appeal and, due to the price, possible affordability - or appearance of of affordability, I should say, since it's doubtful carriers will be willing to lower their prices for data exclusively for the iPhone, no matter how big a deal it is that they get it on their network.
Just a few days ago, Best Buy offered the iPhone 3GS 8GB for free on contract. Is this a foreshadowing of the future model? Is there a way for Apple to offer the iPhone 4S for free? I don't think this is out of the realm of reality for Apple - how on earth they'll be able to work out logistics of making this situation unfold I do not know, but what would happen if Apple took on the same model that masses of app developers have already been living on for months and months now? What if Apple started giving away free hardware and living off the licensing fees and ads in apps like the developer community quite often does?
Is this Apple's all new "Product?"
Is this too big a change? Or is an 8GB iPhone 4S with World Phone capabilities, a similar form factor to the iPhone 4, and a completely free price tag in the realm of reality?