What to Expect from the Apple Announcement Today

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The iPhone 4, announced in early June of last year, will meet its replacement today as new Apple CEO Tim Cook and associates take the stage at company headquarters to unveil what’s been the subject of rumors and speculation for the better part of a year.

FOLLOW-UP POSTS:

Here’s what to expect from today’s announcement.

New iPhone(s)

There’s still a wee bit of uncertainty about whether Apple will introduce an iPhone 5 (new cosmetic design), an iPhone 4S (iPhone 4 design with upgraded innards) or both. I’d like to see both: an iPhone 5 at $199, an iPhone 4S at $99 or $149, and the regular iPhone 4 discounted to $49 or free with a two-year contract.

(PHOTOS: History of the Cell Phone)

If Apple only announces an iPhone 4S, you can bet tech pundits will be up in arms, Apple detractors will point and laugh, Apple lovers will try to make the case that it’s impossible to improve on the iPhone 4′s already-perfect design, and everyone else (regular consumers: the most important group) will buy the new version if they’re eligible without thinking too much about it.

New Carrier

Sprint is looking pretty good to finally get the iPhone, with reports surfacing that the company may have promised to buy 30.5 million iPhones over the next four years at a potential total outlay of $20 billion. That’s a big gamble, but Sprint needs to take a big gamble as it hopes to compete with Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile—especially if the T-Mobile-AT&T merger goes through.

(MORE: So That’s Why T-Mobile Isn’t Getting the iPhone)

To further confound things, BGR.com is reporting that the iPhone 5 may be a 4G handset with a 4-inch screen exclusive to Sprint until the first quarter of next year, while AT&T and Verizon would simply get the iPhone 4S at first. That seems almost unthinkable, but stranger things have happened—and it’d be a hell of a coup for Sprint.

New Operating System (iOS) and Cloud Storage (iCloud)

Apple already announced iOS 5 and iCloud back at its developers conference in early June of this year, but we’ll hear more about how they tie into the new phone hardware today. The iCloud service is pretty ambitious, with Steve Jobs saying at Apple’s June event, "We’re going to demote the PC and Mac to just be a device. We’re going to move the hub, the center of your digital life, to the cloud." Devices compatible with iCloud will synchronize files, apps and media with one another, with Jobs promising it’ll all "just work."

New iPods

Apple has historically used this fall event to announce new iPods, so we’ll likely see updates to various iPod models, including the iPod Touch. There’s also loose talk that the iPod click-wheel models may be phased out, as Apple Insider reports that the "iPod Click Wheel Games" menu has been removed from the iTunes store.

New CEO

And last but certainly not least, Apple has a new CEO in Tim Cook, who took over for Steve Jobs in late August. It’ll be interesting to see if Cook handles the bulk of the presentation today, as Jobs used to do, or if it’s spread out amongst other Apple executives. The event is being held on the Apple campus instead of at the larger Moscone Center venue where Apple announcements traditionally take place, so it could be a more intimate affair.

One of the bigger questions on people’s minds is whether or not Steve Jobs will make a cameo appearance at the event. All these questions and more will be answered starting at 1pm Eastern today.

(PHOTOS: The Long, Extraordinary Career of Steve Jobs)