SAN FRANCISCO, California - Apple's shares climbed and rumours sizzled ahead of an expected move on Tuesday to expand the iPhone domain with a pair of new models, including one aimed at China.
Analysts believe a special event at Apple's headquarters in Silicon Valley will spotlight a more economical iPhone priced to compete in emerging markets where money is tight, along with a beefed-up top-end model.
"The key challenge for Apple this week is to demonstrate that it can maintain momentum in overall iPhone sales, and to do so in a way which won't drive down margins significantly," said Ovum chief telecoms analyst Jan Dawson.
"It's key for Apple to be able to find ways to drive growth at a higher rate again, and getting China's biggest carrier on board and launching a cheaper version of the iPhone are both key to doing that."
Apple became a Wall Street darling by pairing blistering sales of culture-changing gadgets such as iPods, iPhones, and iPads with enviable "margins," the difference between cost and price.
Forrester analyst Charles Golvin told AFP the consensus is for Apple to unveil a new high-end phone, "most likely called the 5S, with the same look and feel physically but with a speed boost; new processor, and new graphics capabilities."
A lower-cost iPhone has been dubbed the 5C, "because it would come in multiple colors analogous to today's iPod touch," Golvin said.
Speculation about the iPhone 5S included the debut of a gold colour and fingerprint recognition for enhanced security.
"For the most part, we view the iPhone5S as an evolution of the iPhone5 and as such do not view it as especially innovative," Citi Research said in a note to investors on Monday.
"However, with the inclusion of a fingerprint reader, Apple opens itself up to new opportunities, most notably mobile payments."
It remained unknown how low a price Apple would be able to hit with the 5C.