Providing his take on the new iPhone ahead of today's launch event, analyst Brian White expects the iPhone 5 to offer a "sleek, aluminum unibody enclosure" that's more like the MacBook Air than the iPhone 4. The new enclosure will not only look better but be stronger and lighter, avoiding the cracks that sometimes appear in the glass back of the iPhone 4.
The new enclosure could even pave the way for Apple to bump up the screen by at least half an inch to 4 inches or more. Echoing the opinions of other analysts, White also expects the new iPhone to boast a dual-core processor and an 8-megapixel camera.
"Apple will clearly need to upgrade the processor speed to at least a Dual Core 1.2GHz to match the Samsung Galaxy S II, while upgrading to an 8-megapixel 1080p camera that is now also on the Galaxy S II," White said.
Combine all the new features with the pent-up demand, and the new phone could easily outshine the 1.7 million iPhone 4 units sold during that device's initial three days of sales last year, says the analyst.
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The new iPhone will also benefit from a larger landscape as it's now offered by 228 carriers compared with only 154 last year. International markets will play a bigger role in the phone's adoption, especially if Apple proves to be as aggressive in its global push as it was with the iPad 2. And if rumors of both an iPhone 5 and an iPhone 4S come true, White sees China as an attractive market for the lower-cost 4S phone.
Speculating further on the phone's new feature, White believes the new iPhone will be a world phone, offering both CDMA and GSM compatibility. Though he sees 4G as unlikely, he believes Apple could support a "3.5G" technology, such as HSPA+, which is currently used by AT&T.
Apple is also expected to grab a healthy number of both new and existing customers.
"Moving into the last few months of 2011, we do not see any leading smartphone vendor that has a product powerful enough to strongly dissuade consumers from upgrading to the iPhone 5," White added. "In fact, we are noticing a new wave of consumers looking forward to buying their very first iPhone this year."
CNET will be covering Apple's "Lets Talk iPhone" event today, starting about 30 minutes before the 10 a.m PT kickoff.