Even now, eight years after the first iPhones hit the market and changed the consumer electronics landscape forever, nothing gets the technology world quite as giddy as an Apple Inc. product launch.
The giant smartphone maker is expected to unveil what observers are already calling the "iPhone 6" at a media event on Tuesday. The refresh of the company's most popular product positions Apple perfectly for the last third of the year, a time when electronics manufacturers tend to do the most sales.
However, the launch also comes at a time when the company is struggling to address some serious questions about the security of the cloud infrastructure on which iPhones and almost all other Apple products rely.
In heavy trading Tuesday, Apple stock was up near 1 per cent.
In addition to a new iPhone, Apple watchers are split as to whether the company will use this week's event to unveil the so-called "iWatch," a heavily anticipated smartwatch that would mark the most audacious Apple product launch in almost half a decade. Most analysts believe such a device is coming – indeed, releasing a smartwatch now would mirror Apple's strategy in the MP3-player-market, for example, where the company waited for a few smaller players to release devices and then went on to dominate the market with its own higher-end product.
Should Apple announce an iWatch this week, the company will likely also unveil a release date a little later in the year so as to coincide with the pivotal holiday shopping season. However some analysts believe Apple may postpone the iWatch announcement altogether, allowing it to stagger its big announcements and keep this week's focus squarely on its new phones.
Beyond the traditional improvements Apple tends to make with every new generation of hardware, the defining feature of the products expected to be unveiled this week will almost certainly be screen size. For years, Apple refused to alter the screen size of its flagship iPhone.
However, in recent years, rivals such as Samsung have proven that there exists a market for so-called "phablets," or phones with larger screens (sometimes so large as to resemble small tablets). It is unlikely that Apple will release anything as large as the 6.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Mega, or the 7-inch Galaxy W, but analysts expect Apple to unveil two new flavours of iPhone – one with a 4.7-inch screen and the other with a 5.5-inch screen. Both would be larger than the most recent, 4-inch iteration of the smartphone.
Since the iPhone morphed from a revolutionary new product into a consumer mainstay several years ago, Apple launch events have largely focused on new tools and services for the hardware, rather than the hardware itself. This week's event will likely be no exception, as Apple executives are expected to spend a lot of time talking about various cloud-based services – most notably, a new wireless payment standard that will allow iPhone users to make purchases simply by swiping their devices past terminals at the checkout. Many Apple rivals, including BlackBerry, have spent considerable energy on similar wireless payment models, but Apple's entry is likely to shake up the technology, which has not yet taken off in a big way in North America.
But Apple's promotion of cloud-based services is likely to prove a little more tricky after an embarrassing black eye last week. In a high-profile incident the company has yet to fully explain, numerous celebrities saw their iCloud accounts hacked and intimate photos and other content stolen and disseminated across the Internet. The hacking incident reignited a debate about the security of the infrastructure in which Apple users store everything from multimedia to credit-card numbers. As such, Apple executives will now almost certainly have to dedicate some time during this week's presentation to reassure current and potential customers that their data are safe in the Apple cloud.