Apple’s issued an invitation regarding its September 12 announcement.

iPhone 5 invite

Although it’s possible Apple could throw a curveball and not call its next iPhone the iPhone 5, that would be curious when taking this invite into account. There had been speculation with the iPad dropping a number (simply being dubbed ‘the new iPad’), the iPhone would follow suit. This doesn’t appear to be the case, which suggests two things.

First, the iPhone still requires clear sales differentiation in terms of device naming, meaning at least two other numbered models will remain on sale. Given that iOS 6 works (in a feature-limited fashion) on the iPhone 3GS, it’s possible Apple’s line-up next week will include the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS. Fast forward a couple of years and dropping the number would leave you with the iPhone, the iPhone and the iPhone, and all kinds of sales problems.

Secondly, the iPad road-map apparently does not need sales differentiation in terms of device naming. This suggests the iPad 2 remaining on sale is short-term plugging of a low(ish)-end price-point hole. Although I still struggle to see the point of a 7-inch iPad, I now reckon there’s a good chance we’ll see such a model this year or early next year, and older models of the iPad will be removed from the channel as new ones appear, rather more like the iPod touch or Apple’s laptops/desktops than the iPhone.