Anticipation is heightened for Apple’s annual launch event

It’s officially iPhone season again now that Apple Inc. has set the date for its annual September launch event.

In typical fashion, the company’s media invite Thursday was brief and shrouded in a bit of mystery. “9.9.2014. Wish we could say more,” the email invite teased.

The launch event will be held at 10 a.m. at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino, California, where the company is headquartered. It’s a departure from Apple’s recent product debuts, which have been held on its own campus or at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

Every year Apple hints that it has groundbreaking products on the way, but this time around, the anticipation is heightened. In the last couple of years, tech rivals have vastly improved their smartphones and other mobile devices, at times churning out products that have bested Apple’s when it comes to performance and functionality — and in some cases, such as wearables, beating them to the market altogether.

Already, tech watchers have pointed to Apple’s decision to use the Flint Center — where Steve Jobs debuted the original Mac three decades ago — as a sign that Apple is planning to announce something major. They’ve dissected the comments of Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue, who said in May that Apple was getting ready to launch “the best product pipeline that I’ve seen in my 25 years at Apple. I believe the products we’ve got coming are great.”

So what can Apple fans expect?

Two new iPhones seem like a sure thing, both of which are widely rumored to boast larger screens: one 4.7-inch version, one 5.5-inch version. They will most likely come with a slate of improved features. James Ragan, senior equity analyst at Crowell, Weedon &Co., said he hoped to see better battery life, a more powerful processor, expanded fingerprint technology, possible near-field communication capabilities and a better camera.

There are also strong indications that Apple will debut a wearable device, possibly a smartwatch called the iWatch.

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