Apple iPhone 5 Plans Could Intensify Android Battle

Apple's iPhone 5 and possible midrange smartphone, paired with a new carrier and upgraded iOS, could mark a new phase in the war between Apple and Android.

Apple could release a midrange iPhone in addition to the iPhone 5, itself rumored to debut in coming weeks. If that comes to pass, it'll mark a new phase in Apple's mobile strategy: the moment when it stopped battling Android in a more general way, and decided to ram Google's operating system head-on.

According to a recent report in AllThingsD, Apple CEO Tim Cook will take to the stage Oct. 4 to introduce the new iPhone. That report stemmed from unnamed "sources close to the information." For months, rumors have circulated that Apple plans to unveil the high-end device, which will supposedly include the upgraded A5 processor and other next-generation hardware, in October.

Even as rumors circulated about Oct. 4, a number of other publications reported that former Vice President Al Gore, a member of Apple's board of directors, told a conference audience of "new iPhones coming out next month."

Gore's comments refueled rumors that Apple plans on releasing a line of lower-cost iPhones to complement the iPhone 5, with an eye toward combating midmarket Android devices.

That hardware will run iOS 5, a significant update to Apple's mobile operating system. It includes boosted interoperability with Twitter, a new feature called Newsstand that consolidates e-periodical subscriptions, and a Reminders app, among other features. Apple is also launching its iCloud service, which will sync user content and push it to various devices via the cloud.

If it comes to pass, cheaper iPhones with more powerful hardware will counter the Android devices currently flooding the low- to mid-price smartphone market, even as the iPhone 5 goes toe-to-toe against premium Android devices such as Samsung's Galaxy S II.

Although Apple continues to dominate much of the general conversation about smartphones, Android has managed to rapidly eat up a healthy portion of the market over the past two years. One reason for the latter's success stems from its presence on multiple networks, something Apple might counter by rolling out the iPhone on additional carriers in the United States.

Rumors have flown fast and furious in recent weeks about a possible iOS appearance on Sprint. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has estimated that giving Sprint the iPhone would boost the device's overall sales by 6 million units. A Sprint iPhone would also leave T-Mobile as the only U.S. carrier without an Apple phone in its device portfolio, although the latter's parent company, Deutsche Telekom AG, has offered the iPhone for years in Germany (and is allowing customers to preorder the iPhone 5, although without any mention of a release date or device specs).

T-Mobile might not prove so lucky, though, particularly if its announced acquisition by AT&T ends up blocked by federal regulators. "We are not going to get the iPhone 5 this year," T-Mobile CMO Cole Brodman is quoted as saying in a transcript of a company town hall, itself reported on the blog TmoNews (which bills itself as "The Unofficial T-Mobile Blog"). The posting was quickly picked up by other blogs, including the Apple-centric 9to5Mac.

Between improved (and cheaper) hardware, an upgraded operating system, and a possible midrange device and new carrier, it seems that Apple is moving to intensify that competition with Android.

Follow Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter