Since the launch of Apple’s original iPhone in 2007, the annual launch of the newest model of the best-selling smartphone has become one of the biggest tech events of the year. This year’s instalment is imminent, with Apple CEO Tim Cook due to take the stage on September 10.

If the rumours are to be believed, this year’s event could see a dramatic change in direction for Apple, with the launch of the long-rumoured iPhone 5C, or low-cost iPhone.

What we know for sure is that the iPhone 5S, the upgrade for the current iPhone 5, will be unveiled at the event. A faster processor, better camera and a bunch of new features are on the cards, with many sources suggesting that Apple will release a champagne-coloured version to go with the existing black and white models.

The event is also likely to see the launch of the new operating system for iPhone and iPad, iOS7, with Techcrunch’s Matthew Panzarino predicting it will become available for users on September 18:

As exciting as these developments are for Apple fans, it is the hotly rumoured iPhone 5C that is likely to steal the show at next month’s event. Apple has yet to officially acknowledge its existence, but there have been enough leaks to give us a fair idea what to expect.

The iPhone 5C will be available in five colours – yellow, green, white, blue and red – with a generous 4 inch display and front and back cameras. Inside Apple is thought to have packed in a Dual Core CPU, 1GB RAM and up to 64GB storage. The rear casing, as the picture below shows, will be plastic. As well as a drop in build quality, the 5C may be without certain features found on the top model, such a Siri.

Probably the biggest remaining mystery surrounding the 5C is the price, though many tech sites are predicting about US$400 for the 16GB version. This is a significant reduction on the $650 higher end iPhone, but it is by no means a budget device.

The iPhone 5C is expected to come in five colours. Pic: iclarified.com

The consensus is that Apple has Asia, and especially China, clearly in its sights with the iPhone 5C. Despite the runaway success of the iPhone and mammoth profits, Apple continues to lose ground to Android devices. In Asia, where wages are lower and some economies are beginning to falter, $650 phones are simply not an option for most people. As smartphone penetration gathers pace in developing countries, the introduction of the iPhone 5C will give consumers a more affordable option.

It remains to be seen whether the final price tag will be affordable enough. In China, where Apple held less than 5 per cent of the smartphone market share in Q2, Android devices are available for as little as $160. Despite a rise in iPhone sales overall this year, Apple continues to lose ground in market share to local smartphone producers. However, such is the adoration of Apple products in Thailand, the iPhone 5C could be the device that sees China becoming Apple’s largest market. If Apple can strike that all-important partnership deal with China Mobile, the sky is the limit.

The low-cost iPhone is likely to revive Apple’s fortunes throughout Asia, where a certain amount of “iPhone fatigue” has set in. Either way, the September 10 event promises to deliver the biggest iPhone shake-up in years.