For as long as I can remember, there have been rumors of the mythical iPhone 5. We’ve been tracking them for quite some time. They often include potential iPhone 5 parts, cases and a healthy dose of analyst speculation. There have been plenty of unconfirmed rumors that Apple would announce more than one new iPhone, with speculation that we’d see both an iPhone 4S and an iPhone 5.  Those rumors have certainly ramped up before the usual summer release schedule and previous to the now official October 4th iPhone event. Yet, days before the event, we’re all in the dark. This year’s release is already particularly different from those in the past and the specter of this new iPhone being a 4S and not the iPhone 5 has most everyone in a bit of tizzy. The picture will become clearer on Tuesday, but will only one new iPhone be enough?

One new iPhone

Each year, since 2007, there has been only one iPhone released per year. After the iPhone 4 was released, the iPhone 3GS has slotted nicely into the value position, with AT&T first offering it for $99. That price is now just $49. While it may be over two years old, it can still command a new contract from those unwilling to pay the $199 admission price for the latest and greatest iPhone. AT&T is still advertising this phone. When was the last time you saw AT&T or any wireless carrier advertising a phone that’s over 2 years old? If you want to purchase a new iPhone today, there are two options. You can buy the iPhone 3GS or the iPhone 4.

When Apple announces at least one new iPhone next week, it will likely mean the end of the line for the iPhone 3GS. If Apple can pull it off, they can slot the current iPhone 4 as the new “value” model. Considering the over one year old iPhone 4 is a tremendous value at $199, just imagine the value at $99. Like the iPhone 3GS, the older model could be sold exclusively at carriers. I believe that speculation of the two new iPhones rumors were fueled by a need to make a low-cost iPhone. Let’s speculate that perhaps the iPhone 4S would offer many of the current features of the existing iPhone 4, but offer only 8GB in storage to reduce Apple’s manufacturing costs. This allows Apple Stores to have the new iPhone front and center, not having to explain the differences between the older model and the model that will be announced on October 4th.

The big question that so many are asking is whether the new iPhone will be an iPhone 4S or iPhone 5. Regardless of specifications, the brand cachet associated with an iPhone 5 will certainly result in lines of epic proportions. 5 is greater than 4. One whole Roman numeral must mean this iPhone brings with it a slew of upgrade worthy features. But what if Apple decides to go the iPhone 4S route? Certainly anyone who moved from the iPhone 3G to iPhone 3GS can attest to the benefits of that upgrade. If this move happened in the summer, as is typical with iPhone release cycles, perhaps an iPhone 4S would have been sufficient. You can bet that plenty of iPhone 4 owners would have sat on the sidelines waiting for yet another new model. These are the same folks who held out when Apple released the iPhone 3GS. In many respects, that was not so terrible a decision. Why get locked into another two years for what some could deem an evolutionary upgrade.

If Apple announces an iPhone 4S next Tuesday, it would bring with it a nice number of upgrades over the current model. Faster processor, improved camera are no brainers. It will still sell in droves and the current iPhone 4 would continue to see brisk sales if it were to be slotted as the new value iPhone. Apple doesn’t need to announce more than one new iPhone on Tuesday. It’s just a matter of whether they want to hit a double up the gap or a home run. If I were a betting man, expect them to swing for the fences on Tuesday.