Apple is set to unveil its next generation iPhone at an eagerly anticipated event in San Francisco this evening.
Expectations are high among consumers with the company under pressure to reveal a handset that represents a step forward from the iPhone 4S. When it was revealed last year, the iPhone 4S was seen as an evolution rather than revolution. However, in the first quarter after it was launched, Apple sold 37.04m iPhones, its highest ever figure.
The latest iteration of the iPhone has been subject to a number of leaks. It is expected to feature a larger screen, faster processor, a smaller charging dock, a thinner body and smaller nano-SIMs. The device will also run on iOS 6, which will see Apple introduce its own maps application for the first time, among other features.
The iPhone could be the latest device to benefit from the UK's forthcoming 4G network. EE CEO Olaf Swantee dropped a massive hint about the device's launch, when he revealed the network's plans to bring 4G to 16 cities by the end of this year. Aping former Apple's CEO Steve Jobs' way of revealing one last surprise in his presentations, Swantee said: 'One more thing - we will be announcing more devices very shortly.'
Ernest Doku, from price comparison site uSwitch.com, said: 'The weight of expectation on Apple is greater than ever. The last month has heralded a host of rival handsets - the wait is on to see how Apple will respond.
'Smartphone sales have been on the wane in previous months, as consumers sit on their hands and wait for new handsets to be unveiled. Samsung's Galaxy S II and S III have consistently been the most popular sellers this year, but Apple will be hoping to reassert its dominance with this launch.'
He added: 'Whether or not the new iPhone is going to represent a paradigm shift for Apple is unclear, but with so much strong competition in the market and fans expecting much more than a cosmetic upgrade, the pressure is on to deliver a real evolutionary leap, not just for itself but for its loyal customers too.'
Adam Leach, leader of Ovum’s devices and platforms practice, said: 'Apple has successfully built the iPhone from a radical new entrant to the must-have smartphone. Whilst the company is still reaping the rewards of the brand equity of the iPhone, consumers are notoriously fickle when it comes to buying handsets. Without the continued innovation which we are accustomed to with Apple, the company risks losing consumer appeal. The iPhone re-defined the smartphone category in 2007 but it can’t rely on past success to guarantee its future or rely on litigation to keep its competitors at bay.'
The iPhone launch begins at 6pm BST.
Editor: Graeme Neill