"I don't think [Apple has] ever been under more pressure to leapfrog its previous offerings," said independent technology analyst Carmi Levy. "It takes a lot more to impress the smartphone buyer today than it did in 2007, when the iPhone was first released."
For the first time, it is unclear whether a brand new iPhone is enough to beat back surging competition from a slew of devices running on Google Inc.'s Android operating system chiefly, devices from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Apple's most serious competitor.
In the past, Apple has targeted the lower end of the smartphone market by simply reducing the price on older iPhones whenever it released new ones. This time, however, all expectations are that the company will unveil a new device specifically for the growing low end of the consumer smartphone market, with more modest specifications and performance. The move is not without risks, given that such devices tend to generate lower profit margins than their high end siblings. But the low end of the maket has been by far the fastest growing segment of the smartphone industry this year. The most intriguing part of Samsung's event, however, was the introduction of a new so called smartwatch. The device is built to communicate with the phone in the user's pocket, so people can do things such as read e mails by looking down at their wrists. The market for such devices is still brand new, even though some startup developers already have functioning devices on the market. In recent months, a number of big tech players, including Samsung and Apple, have reportedly taken an interest in the technology. Should Apple release its own smartwatch, it could recreate the success it had with the original iPod, which entered a still new music player market and eventually dominated it.