iPhone 5 debut expected Sept. 12 at Apple media event

The invitation has arrived: Apple’s next press event will, indeed, take place Sept. 12, and as long had been rumored it will likely unveil the iPhone 5.

It’s all taking place at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco, the venue for many previous Apple press shindigs. This time around Apple’s cryptic clue takes the form of the number “5” in a shadow coming down from the date of the event on the invitation.

It is accompanied by the words, “It’s almost here.”

The “It’s” almost certainly refers to the iPhone 5, or whatever Apple ends up calling the next iteration of its iconic smartphone.

The phone will run iOS 6 software, and most likely house a faster processor. It also will quite possibly boast a larger display that will bring the iPhone more in line with many larger-display Android phones that have been in the market for some time.

Of course, while Apple may go larger on the phone screen, it is also possible the company will unveil an iPad mini, rumored to be a smaller version of its tablet with a 7-inch display that provides Apple with an answer to such diminutive tablets at the Amazon Kindle Fire or Google Nexus 7. Apple could just as easily hold off on a new iPad for now – perhaps staging a separate media event next month so as not to bring out two wildly popular new devices at the same time.

Let the speculation continue.

One thing seems clear: A lot of diehards have been waiting for the next iPhone. Apple’s earnings were recently softer than some expected because consumers are believed to be waiting for the iPhone 5.

And a survey released today by TechBargains.com, a deal aggregation site for electronics, indicated that nearly 3-of-4 current iPhone 4 owners plan to upgrade when the new phone goes on sale.