Expect iPhone 5 intro on June 6, says analyst

Big question is whether new CDMA iPhones will be part of June WWDC keynote slate

Apple will introduce the next iPhone on June 6, an analyst said today.

"There's absolutely no reason for them not to," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "The pattern they've set has been so good for them, and they've set expectations that they'll do this every year."

The pattern Gottheil referred to is Apple's practice of launching its newest iPhone each of the past three years -- 2008, 2009, and 2010 -- during the keynote presentation of WWDC, an event it has held those years in the first week of June.

San Francisco's Moscone Center, the WWDC venue since 2003, lists an event on its current schedule for June 5-9 that's titled "Corporate Meeting," a generic placeholder the facility uses to mask events. Last year, the Moscone Center used that same label for the days that Apple later announced were those for WWDC.

The AppleBitch blog first reported on the Moscone schedule entry last week.

The last three years, Apple has introduced a new iPhone the first Monday of WWDC: Last year, that was June 7, while in 2009 and 2008 it was June 8 and June 9, respectively.

June 6 is the first Monday of the Moscone event likely representing WWDC.

"I fully expect a new iPhone then," said Gottheil, "with a new design and more speed. I'll be interested to see what they do with voice, which is an area Apple hasn't touched much."

More intelligent dial-by-voice software -- the feature was first introduced in 2009's iPhone 3GS -- would be welcome, said Gottheil.

In each of the last four years, Apple has put the iPhone on sale within weeks of WWDC's conclusion, with a June launch during three of those four. The odd-year-out was 2008, when Apple shipped the iPhone 3G on July 11.

Last year, Apple started selling the iPhone 4 on June 24, just over two weeks after the June 7 introduction.

Although consumers have been trained to anticipate a new iPhone each summer, the big question this year is whether Apple will release a new model not only for its long-standing GSM-based model -- the one sold by AT&T in the U.S. -- but also for the new CDMA-compliant smartphone that goes on sale later this week for Verizon customers.

"Would they want to sync up the CDMA and GSM [models] so soon?" Gottheil asked rhetorically. "Well..., yeah."

It's even possible that Apple will use the opportunity to merge the lines into one device, creating a dual-function iPhone that supports both network technologies.

"Clearly, Apple would like to get back to one SKU," said Gottheil, using the acronym for "stock-keeping unit," the code used by sellers to identify products.

The possibility that Apple will revamp the Verizon iPhone so soon after its launch has prompted some experts, including Consumer Reports, to recommend that the carrier's customers delay their purchase.

In a blog post last month, the magazine warned readers that the Verizon iPhone "may be quickly replaced by a newer, cooler version more quickly than is customary even for the die-young life expectancy of most smart phones."

The AppleBitch blog also noted two other "Corporate Meeting" events in the Moscone Center's schedule -- the first for May 10-11, the second for June 22-23 -- and speculated that those dates could also be used by Apple for the iPhone 5 or even iPad 2 launches.

The May 10-11 dates, however, correspond to Google's I/O Developers Conference, which the maker of Android today said had sold out in under an hour.

In the past, Apple has officially announced the dates for WWDC in March or April, but has declined to talk about a new iPhone.

With CEO Steve Jobs absent on an indefinite medical leave, Gottheil expects that several Apple executives will take the stage to introduce the iPhone 5 this June. In 2009, when Jobs was last on leave, Philip Schiller, the company's head of marketing, did the honors.

"It may be [Tim] Cook," said Gottheil, talking about Apple's chief operating officer, who is running the firm while Jobs is away, "or Schiller or [Jonathan] Ive," the vice president of industrial design. "Apple will want to show that they are a strong, multiple-leader company" in Jobs' absence.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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