Apple is keeping its cards close to its chest ahead of the hotly anticipated launch of the iPhone 5S. This has not stopped the usual rumour mills churning out endless coverage of the as yet unannounced flagship device, with speculation reaching fever pitch every time a new titbit of information emerges, no matter how spurious it may sound.

Every new iPhone has been an important step forwards for Apple, although it only takes big leaps every couple of years, with incremental updates emerging in between the major launches. The iPhone 3G was followed by the slightly more powerful 3GS, before the iPhone 4 arrived in 2010 and completely altered the design and display resolution. In 2011 the iPhone 4S touched down with minimal hardware alterations, before last year’s iPhone 5 brought a bigger screen to the table for the first time.

Although it is not yet certain, most industry observers are betting that 2013 will be the year in which the iPhone 5S is unveiled, with the iPhone 6 release date not likely to be settled for at least another 12 months. But in the event that it is the iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5, what major differences, if any, will separate the two devices and justify an upgrade?

Retina Display Wars

There have been some suggestions that Apple will be increasing the display area of the iPhone 5S so that it is larger even than the 4.0 inch screen of the current-gen device. However, this seems to be wishful thinking. More likely is the speculation that it will come with a higher resolution Retina Display, perhaps with double the pixels of the iPhone 5, so that it can stand shoulder to shoulder with the full HD panels found on rivals like the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4. And there is still every chance that the iPhone 5S will have exactly the same screen as its predecessor, although if Apple wants to really impress its fans then it would be best to update it.

iSight Camera Capabilities

Although the iPhone 5 got better low light performance capabilities than the iPhone 4S in the camera department, the retention of the eight megapixel sensor resolution was a bit of a shame. With the iPhone 5S, it is hoped that Apple will boost this to 12 or 13 megapixels, putting it on level pegging with rivals and further swelling its reputation as a manufacturer that cares about photography.

Processor Prowess

The one guaranteed update for the iPhone 5S will be the processor, which should use the latest A-series chip. A boost to the RAM would also be welcomed, although Apple tends not to try and compete in this arena, leaving the quad-core chasing competition to worry about whether they have the most clock cycles on offer.

Apple iPhone 5S Price Point

Apple’s pricing of the iPhone range has been fairly consistent and you can expect this to remain relatively stable upon the launch of the iPhone 5S. The cost of an iPhone 5S contract should be of a similar price to the iPhone 5 deals that are already available. Meanwhile the SIM free price for UK users will probably start from around 529, although if Apple does go all-out for a hardware update then this might climb higher to compensate.

Apple is able to charge a premium for its products because people are willing to pay what it asks. However, there are also many reports that an iPhone 5C will be launched alongside the Apple iPhone 5S, giving users on a budget a different option.

Following the launch of the Apple iPhone 5S you can also expect the current-gen flagship device to get a price cut, which might make it an appealing alternative, particularly if the upgrades are only minor.

iOS 7 Update

The Apple iOS update that is destined to arrive on the scene at the same time as the iPhone 5S has already been shown in public and could be the biggest selling point of this new phone. Of course since iOS 7 will also be backwards compatible with the iPhone 5, 4S and 4, users will be able to get most of the benefits without necessarily having to get a new contract.

With add-ons like the music streaming service that is iTunes Radio, along with a completely overhauled interface and a new voice for Siri, iOS 7 is the icing on the Apple iPhone 5S cake. Keep your eyes peeled for more information and 5S news as it emerges ahead of the Apple announcement.