[caption id="attachment_3684" align="aligncenter" width="597"] The next iPhone will likely look different from the iPhone 4S pictured here.[/caption] Apple’s next iPhone could prove the “biggest handset launch in history” when it debuts, according to Jefferies & Co. analyst Peter Misek wrote in a widely circulated research note Aug. 17. He also suggested that Apple executives could use the event unveil the company’s much-rumored television (which he dubbed “iTV”) and smaller iPad. The tech-rumor consensus seems to pinpoint Sept. 12 as the date for Apple’s big announcement, in lieu of any actual word from the company. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster concurred with Misek in a research note earlier this week, suggesting that the iPhone 5 launch could represent “the largest consumer electronics product upgrade in history” and sell millions of units within days of a September debut: “We believe if iPhone 5 launched in September, Apple could sell 26-28 million units in the quarter.” Rumored features for the iPhone 5 include a larger screen, a smaller 8-pin dock connector, and a designed body. It will almost certainly run iOS 6, the next iteration of Apple’s mobile operating system and a platform for a dizzying array of cloud-based applications and features. Apple could ride a sales wave powered by iPhone users looking to renew their carrier contracts with a device upgrade, as well as ongoing consumer interest in trading feature phones for smartphones. According to a recent study by analytics firm comScore, some 47.5 percent of the feature-phone subscribers who switched to a new device in April 2012 chose a smartphone, versus 38.0 percent in April 2011. Despite the hype that inevitably greets the ramp-up to any new iPhone, Apple doesn’t exactly have an unimpeded run in the mobile space: research firm Gartner recently estimated Samsung’s share of the worldwide mobile device market at 21.6 percent, up from 16.3 percent in 2011. That places it ahead of Nokia at 19.9 percent and Apple at 6.9 percent. “In the race to be the top smartphone manufacturer in 2012, Samsung has consistently increased its lead over Apple, and its open OS market share increased to one-and-a-half times that of Apple in the second quarter of 2012,” Anshul Gupta, an analyst with Gartner, wrote in a research note accompanying that data. But Apple isn’t content to only battle Samsung in stores: the two tech titans are locked in an epic courtroom battle over patent infringement that could result in Samsung paying out billions of dollars in damages. A smaller iPad would allow Apple to compete more directly against a line of 7-inch tablets that have emerged in the marketplace over the past few quarters, including Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7. A September launch would position both that device and the iPhone 5 for the holiday shopping rush.   Image: Apple