-- Even without Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple, the show must go on.
September historically is when Apple updates its iPod line of music players. This year, tech analysts expect Apple in October to add a new iPhone to the mix, a model with wider distribution than before.
The iPhone 4, now offered through AT&T and Verizon Wireless, will be available to Sprint customers, too, says Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin. Apple needed to broaden the iPhone's base because of the growing dominance of smartphones based on Google's Android operating system, sold by the four major carriers.
AT&T last March announced a deal to buy T-Mobile for $39 billion. But because of uncertainty about regulatory approval of the proposed merger, analysts don't expect the iPhone to be available this year on T-Mobile.
"Android became so big because people shopped at their local carriers for a smartphone with a touch-screen that could play apps," he says. "Android was what was there, so they bought it. They couldn't get the iPhone."
Beyond the new iPhone, dubbed the iPhone 5 by analysts and Apple watchers, Golvin expects Sprint and Verizon to sell the existing iPhone 4 at a discount when the new model arrives. "The iPhone 4 could be $49, and in the future, as low as $29," he predicts.
Sprint is alone among major carriers in offering unlimited data for a monthly fee to new subscribers, says analyst Richard Doherty of Envisioneering Group. Verizon and AT&T have caps, and extra charges if the data allowance is surpassed. "For heavy Internet surfers, this is like living next to an oasis if you're a thirsty person," he says. "We'll see a lot of families switching to the iPhone on Sprint." Sprint didn't respond to requests for comment; Apple declined to comment.
Doherty expects the new iPhone to be a "little thinner, with better battery life, and improved camera."
The iPod lineup, which has seen sales decline for the past three years, will get a refresh that ties the portable players more into cloud-based music services, he says. Doherty also expects a new version of the iPod Touch, which he thinks will closely resemble the iPhone 5. "It will be an even better gaming machine, because games sell better on the Touch than they do on the iPhone," he says.
Apple earlier this year announced a fall debut for iCloud, a new software service for accessing and syncing data from multiple Apple devices.