The next iPhone: What we know, and what we think we know (rumorville)It’s been more than a year since the iPhone 4 landed in stores, yet there’s still no iPhone 5 on the horizon—or at the very least, there’s no official word from Apple.

The general consensus, however, is that there is indeed a new iPhone waiting in the wings, and that a thinner, lighter, and faster iPhone may finally take the stage within a month or so.

Chasing down the latest iPhone rumors is typically an exercise in futility, but now’s as good a time as any to summarize the latest chatter—especially since many of you have been asking when the next iPhone will finally go on sale.

What we know for sure
Next to nothing about actual new iPhone hardware—well, besides the fact we’re overdue for a new iPhone.

Whither the iPhone 5?
In the past few years, Apple has announced its latest iPhone models in June, around the time of its annual software developers conference.

But the Apple’s 2011 Worldwide Developers Conference came and went without a new iPhone. Instead, Steve Jobs & Co. focused on software during the conference, detailing (among other things) a new version of iOS, the software that powers the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

New iPhone software
The more than 200 features slated for iOS 5 sound pretty impressive, by the way. Among them: a new, improved alert system that notifies you of incoming calls and calendar events in a subtle window along the top of the screen, replacing the current, jarring pop-up windows that interrupt whatever you happen to be doing.

iOS 5 will also let you sync your iPhone or iPad wirelessly with your PC—no more having to fish out the sync cable.

You cloud, iCloud, we all cloud
Even more tantalizing than the upcoming iOS update is iCloud, Apple’s soon-to-arrive “cloud”-based storage service that will store and share your music, snapshots, calendars, and other documents with all your various Apple devices—for free.

Both iOS 5 and iCloud are due to arrive sometime this fall.

What we think we know
The fact that we didn’t get a new iPhone last month didn’t come as a huge surprise to industry mavens, who’d already been predicting for months that Apple would break with tradition and wait to release a new iPhone until…

Timing is everything
…this fall, with the latest word being that the next iPhone could go on sale as early as September 5.

Look & feel
The rumor mill has been violently seesawing on what the new iPhone will look like. Will it arrive with a “radical” new design, or look more or less like the iPhone 4? Who knows, although the chatter seems to be pointing toward an iPhone that’s “thinner and lighter” than the current iPhone, if nothing else.

New & improved features
Just about every iPhone rumor suggests that the latest model will pack in a faster, dual-core processor—that is, two processors on a single chip, good for faster and more efficient performance. (The new iPad 2 already has a dual-core processor crammed into its shell.)

Also rumored: a sharper, eight-megapixel camera on the iPhone’s back panel. (The iPhone 4 has a five-megapixel camera in back.)

There’s also talk that the next iPhone could come with a slightly larger display than the 3.5-inch screen on all the previous iPhones, but others believe that a big-screen iPhone may not arrive until next year.

One new iPhone, or two?
Another persistent rumor has it that we may get not one, but two new iPhones in September: a pricier, high-end iPhone, and a cheaper iPhone with mid-range features. Well, maybe so, but recent buzz has it that the “cheaper” iPhone will be little more than the two-year-old iPhone 3GS with a $350, no-contract price tag.

Sprint and T-Mobile?
What if the biggest news about the next iPhone isn’t a new feature at all, but merely the long-awaited arrival of the iPhone on Sprint and T-Mobile? It seems like the logical next step now that Verizon has the iPhone, but the evidence for this prediction seems tenuous, at best.

So … that’s pretty much all we know—and all we think we know—at this point. Hopefully, we’ll get the straight scoop from Apple within a month or so; until then, we’ll just have to cool our heels.

What are you hoping to see in the next iPhone? Planning on upgrading—or not?

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