iPhone 5 Introduction Officially Set for Sept. 12

Apple has finally invited journalists to a San Francisco event Sept. 12-a day long ago circled on tech calendars as the launch of the iPhone 5.

Apple's iPhone 5 introduction just got a little closer. On Sept. 4, Apple finally mailed out invitations for a San Francisco event on Sept. 12, suggesting that at least two predictions about the long-awaited smartphone are so far correct: the Sept. 12 date-first predicted by Mac-centric tech site iMore in July-and that Apple will indeed call the sixth generation of its iconic smartphone the iPhone 5.

The invitation features the number 12, in the font of Apple's calendar app, throwing forward the shadow of a gigantic 5. Above it are the words: "It's almost here."

Twitter sprang to life with the news. "It's COMING!!!!! tweeted @film_girl. "Woohoo!" tweeted @MacLife.

Analysts with investment firm Jefferies have forecast that the launch will be the "biggest handset launch in history." With 170 million global smartphone subscribers expected to come out of their carrier contracts in the second half of this year, and 450 million more to follow in 2013, Jefferies analyst Peter Misek wrote in an Aug. 17 research note that the firm sees "significant and very fertile ground for the iPhone 5's success."

Misek was among the analysts to confirm that a Sept. 12 event was in the works, though he stopped short of adding that the smartphone will be joined on stage by a smaller iPad and a television.

"While we think an iTV will be ready for a [fourth-quarter] launch, we do not know how many major product announcements Apple would want to cram into Sept./Oct./Nov. and see a [first quarter 2013] launch as possible," Misek wrote.

Japanese tech site Macotakara has had no qualms about "confirming" that Apple will call the expected smaller tablet the iPad mini, though general consensus is that Apple will formally introduce the device at its own party in October, finding no need to split a spotlight between it and the iPhone 5.

What to expect Sept. 12? By all accounts Apple will finally increase the display of the iPhone to at least 4 inches. New data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech shows that users with devices with larger displays are doing more with their phones, which causes higher user retention for brands-and that larger displays are a strong customer draw. Of the Android devices that sold in the 12 weeks leading up to Aug. 5, nearly 30 percent had displays larger than 4.5 inches.

Apple will almost certainly also include Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology and near-field communications (NFC)-two technologies that have arrived on considerable numbers of high-end devices since the iPhone 4S was introduced without them.

Apple is also expected to show off new technology that integrates touch sensors into the liquid crystal display, eliminating the need for a second touch-screen layer and resulting in a thinner device with a crisper visual experience.

An aesthetic more in line with that of the iPad is also expected, along with proprietary mapping software that will enable Apple to kick Google Maps off its devices.

If still another of the many iPhone 5 rumors holds turns, Apple will begin shipping the device Sept. 21-in time for sales to affect Apple's current fiscal quarter.

According to AppleInsider, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster issued a Sept. 4 report noting that if the date holds up, Apple could sell between 6 million and 10 million iPhones during the final week of September, driving sales expectations, currently between 22 million and 23 million for the quarter, to at least 28 million units.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a May interview in which he gave away few clues about the iPhone 5 or other projects in the works, remarked, "Never have I seen the things I can't talk about today."