iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C and iOS 7: Everything we expect from Apple at Tuesday's iPhone event

Jason Gilbert

Here we go again!

On Tuesday, Apple will host an event at its Cupertino campus, where it is widely expected to announce a new iPhone or two. What specifically are we anticipating from this year’s iPhone bonanza? How will Apple transform, add to or otherwise tantalize you with its sequel to the iPhone 5S? And what else might Apple have planned?

Here is everything we’re expecting from Apple’s iPhone, with the usual caveat that plans are subject to change, that rumors don’t always pan out, and that Apple may also have several surprises planned as well. To find out what Apple really has up its sleeves, make sure you follow along with us on Twitter for all the latest, and join us for our Apple event live chat starting Tuesday at 12:45PM EST.

The iPhone 5S

Headlining Apple’s event will likely be a sequel to the iPhone 5; most tech writers and bloggers assume it will be called the “iPhone 5S,” and while that’s certainly not confirmed, we’re going to go ahead and refer to it as “iPhone 5S” from here on out.

Longtime Apple watchers will recognize that Apple has a very specific naming and upgrade cycle for its iPhones: “S” phones (the iPhone 3GS; the iPhone 4S) come every two years, following the “number” phones (iPhone 3G; iPhone 4). These “S” phones generally keep the design of their predecessors, but add a special feature or two that makes them worthwhile upgrades for shoppers. The iPhone 3GS, for example, tacked on a better camera with the ability to record video; the iPhone 4S introduced Siri.

So what can we expect from the iPhone 5S? As I reported in January, Apple is likely to add a fingerprint sensor underneath the home button, for added password security. In 2011 Apple bought a fingerprint scanning company called AuthenTec for over $350 million, one of its largest purchases ever; reports indicate that since the acquisition, most of the AuthenTec team has left Apple, meaning that their work is complete. A series of hardware leaks and intel from Apple experts like Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac would seem to indicate that a fingerprint sensor is close to a lock (pun intended) for the iPhone 5S.

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What does a fingerprint sensor mean for the iPhone? Despite some early speculation that Apple would include technology that would make it possible to tap-to-pay with an iPhone at cash registers, it appears that, for now, Apple’s fingerprint sensor (iFinger?) will simply be used to lock and unlock the phone. A fingerprint — unlock an alphanumerical code, facial photo or drawn pattern — is incredibly difficult for hackers to spoof.

In addition, it’s the kind of gee-whiz, show-off-to-your-friends feature, like Siri, that could incite a buying frenzy for early adopters.

Other expected features include an upgraded camera, with a better flash for nighttime photography; iOS 7, the redesigned version of Apple’s mobile operating system shown off at a developer event this past summer; and two new color options: a champagne-gold color, and a light gray.

The iPhone 5C

Unlike at past iPhone-centric events, this time around Apple is expected to announce a second new smartphone. In addition to the new premium model (the iPhone 5S), Apple may also unveil a cheaper version of its iPhone. Rumored to be called the iPhone 5C, the cheaper smartphone will apparently cut costs with a plastic backing, a weaker camera and a slightly bulkier body; but it will still come with iOS 7 and will apparently be available in multiple bright colors.

And, oh yeah, it will be cheaper. This might not be a big deal in the United States, where the prices of most smartphones are subsidized by carriers like Verizon and AT&T; a $700 iPhone, in other words, costs $200 up front, with your contractual obligation to stay on that carrier for two years.

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In European and Asian markets, on the other hand, smartphone shoppers are forced to pay that unsubsidized cost all at once, which Apple thinks has stunted its growth in some of the larger, expanding economies like India and China. So if you are living in America, and don’t find yourself tantalized by a slower, weaker iPhone with a plastic backing — well, Apple doesn’t care. The iPhone 5C, as rumored, isn’t for you.

Etc., etc.

This isn’t meant as a knock on anything else Apple might announce — every product unveiling is equally important, you guys! — but this really is the iPhone’s show. Any other announcements are likely to be lead-ins to the big fancy iPhone reveal.

You can bet that we’ll get a final release date for iOS 7, the official timing for when you’ll be able to download the new operating system on your existing iPad and iPhone. There are whispers that Apple will show off a new iPad or iPad mini, but it seems more likely that it will wait until October to do so at a separate event, where the iPad can be the star. There was also some initial chatter about a refreshed Apple TV coming on Tuesday, but that has died down as well. The long-rumored iWatch and Apple television set, or “iTV,” are also not expected.

Yes, Tuesday’s event will likely center on the new iPhone, or iPhones. You can read more about what we expect from Apple here, and remember to check back right here on Tuesday for all the live coverage of Apple's big event at 12:45PM EST.