A lot of this 10th anniversary of the iPhone speculation is regarding the rumors that next year’s new iPhones might sport a new industrial design, with edge-to-edge displays that eliminate both the top and bottom bezels from the front face. If such a design does appear next year, the timing will be purely coincidental.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple never even mentions next year that 2017 is the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone. And if they do mention it, I think it will be a brief passing reference on stage, not a part of any advertising or marketing campaign.
If they do mention it, I think it will be a lot like the way Phil Schiller alluded to the original Mac when introducing the 27-inch Retina iMac:
It’s the thirtieth birthday of the Mac this year, and [this lineup is] the best ever. […] I think [the Retina iMac is] the perfect fitting to the thirtieth birthday of Macintosh.
Today’s Retina iMac is obviously different from the original Macintosh in pretty much every way. But if you put them side-by-side, you’d notice the familial similarity. The Retina iMac is that original Macintosh with every single element pushed to the ragged edge.
If the next iPhone is similar to what the rumours say, it’s going to be that kind of upgrade. It’s very likely that you’ll be able to place it beside the original iPhone and acknowledge the similarities, while seeing it as possibly the purest expression of what a smartphone can be. Yet, while it may be a fitting tribute on the iPhone’s tenth birthday, that’s not why it’s being released next year. Whatever the case for the iPhone next year, it’s because that’s the best of what Apple can do.