Rumor Breakdown: Here’s What to Expect from Apple’s iPhone 5

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is expected to announce the next iteration of its popular smartphone today in California at an event shrouded in secrecy. But despite Apple’s attempts to keep hush-hush about the purpose of the event, it’s all but certain at this point that the Cupertino-based company will launch the long-awaited iPhone 5.

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Rumors about the device have been swirling for months — some based on patent applications filed by and granted to Apple, others come from anonymous industry sources, and still others are based on no more than analysts’ own projections based on technology trends. It can be a lot to sort through, but we’ve rounded up all the hottest rumors to help our readers know what to expect from the most anticipated smartphone release this year.

An iPhone with 4G LTE capability is a near-certainty at this point. The iPhone 4S was also expected to sport the technology, but came with HSPA+ instead when it debuted last October. But in March, Apple introduced a third-generation iPad with 4G LTE capability. It would seem a sort of step backward for Apple to leave the iPhone with inferior wireless technology, especially when so many smartphone makers have already beat it to the punch. The most recent report supporting rumors that the iPhone 5 will be 4G LTE-capable comes from the Wall Street Journal, which cited “people familiar with the matter” — industry lingo for reliable insiders who must remain anonymous because the information they’re leaking could get them in trouble.

Next on the list, and perhaps the rumor stirring the most excitement, is that the iPhone 5 will get a significant external makeover to mirror the changes inside. That includes a larger screen, a 4-inch display from LG (NYSE:LPL) to be exact. Reuters reported in August that LG had started mass producing a display that would integrate “in-cell multitouch technology,” and given that LG is one of the main suppliers of touch screens bound for iPhones, it was a natural leap to assume the screens were meant for the iPhone 5. The new display would relinquish the need for sensors and glass, making the screen thinner and the device lighter.

Perhaps less exciting for most, but still a major improvement for Apple, is the widely-expected new SIM card. Leaked photos posted on the user forum WeiPhone last month purportedly show the new iPhone’s motherboard/logicboard with a smaller SIM card slot, which means the iPhone 5 could be the first appearance of the long-in-development nano-SIM that Apple has already been pushing to have become the new standard.

By saving some space elsewhere, Apple may be making room for a bigger battery, which means a longer battery life. For those who watch a lot of video and upload/download content frequently, this is some very good news. The current iPhone 4S sports a 1,430mAh battery, but a photo posted last month on 9to5Mac shows a 1,440mAh battery. The battery also jumped to 3.8 from 3.7 volts. Though the improvements are minimal, they may be meant to compensate for the added drain of 4G LTE.

A new dock connector may be one of the more controversial features on the iPhone 5, but if this rumor proves true, Apple will no doubt have a plan in place to help alleviate the burden of making so many iPhone peripherals obsolete. For many years, Apple’s mobile devices — iPods, iPads, and iPhones alike — have come with a 30-pin dock connector, but Apple is said to be making a much smaller 9-pin connector the new standard, and the iPhone 5 is expected to be its first appearance. Rumors had been swirling that Apple would shrink the dock connector, but it was 9to5Mac that reportedly found a code string for a 9-pin connector in the latest beta version of iOS 6, which is also expected to launch today.

The only thing more important than the announcement of the new iPhone is its ship date. Apple usually allows a week or two for pre-orders after it announces a new product, but when it launched its new MacBook lineup at WWDC in June, the new laptops immediately went on sale. The general consensus here seems to be that the first devices will ship on September 21. AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) both reportedly blacked out vacation days for employees on that date and the week following, hinting that they’re expecting a lot of business. Furthermore, a Friday release would be in keeping with previous launches.

Well, that’s the breakdown of all the hottest rumors, though others have cropped up over the past months that didn’t quite grow legs. Now all that’s left to do is just wait and see whether Apple still has a few surprises in its back pocket. Perhaps it will launch the rumored iPad Mini today as well. Stay tuned to Wall St. Cheat Sheet for all the latest Apple news.

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