Gadget fans waiting anxiously for the next iPhone to be released may be reaching the home stretch.
Apple, which has made no official announcement, is planning a September 12 event at which the next generation of the iconic smartphone will presumably be announced, according to multiple reports.
iMore, an Apple-oriented blog, was the first to report that "sources who have proven accurate in the past" said the phone will be introduced at an event that day and released nine days later. Observers are calling it the iPhone 5, although no name has been announced.
Others, including The Wall Street Journal's All Things D blog, followed with similar reports. Quoting anonymous sources at Apple, All Things D said an event is planned for the week of September 9. The 12th would be a Wednesday, which follows with previous Apple events.
A September release would be slightly ahead of Apple's established one-iPhone-per-year pace. But the iPhone 4S took longer than usual, its October unveiling coming about 16 months after the iPhone 4.
A fall iPhone release has been considered a foregone conclusion by most observers for months. Speculation has focused on a handful of expected new features, including a slightly larger screen, a smaller dock connector and NFC technology that would make it easier for shoppers to make payments through their phones.
iMore also says that the mythical "iPad Mini" will be unveiled at the event. Speculation has increasingly ramped up that Apple, faced by competition from Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7 tablets, is making a smaller version of the iPad.
The move would fly in the face of statements made by the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who favored full-size tablets. But Apple faces unprecedented competition in the space and may argue that screen technology that would have made a smaller iPad impractical before is now available.
On the smartphone front, Apple also faces a landscape that's arguably more challenging than it's seen in a while. The iPhone is still the most popular handset in the field, but the total number of phones running Google's Android operating system has been greater for some time.
And while competitors in the past have arguably spent the time between iPhone releases trying to catch up, many reviewers feel that several models among the current crop of Android phones have surpassed the 4S in terms of features and performance.
Notably, the Samsung Galaxy S III has topped 10 million in sales in two months -- a number it took the Galaxy S II five months to hit. Reviewers have praised its bigger screen, sleek design and a set of new features.
The iPhone 4S was, in some senses, a glorified update of the iPhone 4, with its advances coming in new software features and improved camera and display. It outsold its predecessor, although with anticipation high for the looming iPhone 5, sales have begun to flag.
According to its recent earnings report, Apple shipped 26 million iPhones from April to June, which was less than the 28 million to 29 million that Wall Street analysts had predicted. It was a steep drop from the 35.1 million that the company sold in the previous quarter.