Apple's iPhone 5 release date will be...

By Jonny Evans

Great speculation clads the question: "When will Apple [AAPL] introduce the iPhone 5?" I've been gazing at the crystal ball, talking to astrologers, seeking the wisdom of soothsayers and looking at my iCal calendar to estimate the date: October 2, or October 16

[ABOVE: Apple CEO, Tim Cook, introduces the iPhone 4S last October.]

Logical madness

[UPDATE, Ed: Fresh information since time of writing now suggests an earlier introduction point. More here.]

There's two schools of thought surrounding the next iPhone's introduction: One group believes Apple will introduce it at or around WWDC in June; however the prevailing expectation is that it will ring in the smartphone changes in Fall, probably in or around October.

I favor a Fall, rather than mid-summer launch because:

  • iOS 6 will deliver significant new features;
  • The new iPhone is expected to offer significant design changes, though perhaps not the much-anticipated Liquidmetal..;
  • Advanced components for the device will need to be manufactured;
  • Apple and its partners will need to assemble new production lines;
  • It's extremely important the failure rate on the device is very small;
  • It takes time to manufacture the millions of units Apple is expected to sell in the first few days.

Looking to history

There's many who point to previous iPhone model introductions in order to add weight to their belief the device will debut at WWDC, so I've listed the dates below:

October 4 2011: iPhone 4S

June 10, 2010: iPhone 4

June 8, 2009: 3GS

June 9, 2008: iPhone 3

January 9, 2007: iPhone

With the exception of the most recent model and introduction of the original iPhone, every new launch has taken place in June.

Apple watchers also point to the device's seeming decline in sales volume relative to Samsung's and other vendor's Android-powered devices, arguing the company needs to refresh its product to maintain momentum.

Never say never, but I'd counter that the iPhone 4S remains popular, accounting for 31 percent of US smartphone sales. I'd also point out the existing model's going to be just eight months old in June, meaning Apple's most loyal customers will need to buy their way out of their 12-month contracts to upgrade. That's in addition to the reasons against an earlier launch listed above.

Make time for Macintosh

With Apple set to introduce new Macs over summer, I'd argue against a summer launch, which also leads us into Fall. August isn't a good launch month as many potential Apple customers head off on summer vacation. As do many Apple staff.

September remains a possibility.Apple seems to like to upgrade its music devices just in time for the new student year. The challenge is that an iPhone launch at that point would seize the entire media focus, side-tracking attention away from these announcements, including the much-upgraded version of iTunes I'd like to see by then.

This leaves October and November.

November is a difficult month.

Just before Christmas, (an important season in some cultures) most consumers are already doing their sums and checking their finances are in order for the annual gift-purchasing season by November.

In the US, (previous error removed, ed) Thanksgiving also puts pressure on shopper's wallets, and reduces the media attention given to anything launched late in that month.

Thanksgiving in the US takes place on November 22 this year, so it's reasonable to expect a slow down in media reporting in the week before and after that event. Corporate announcements tend to dip around then (this is also an opportunity to scoop media attention, of course). However, it also limits the available spare cash consumers have to hand.

This leaves just the first two weeks in November to make a product introduction, but limits the time to bring it to market.

As winter falls

With September unlikely and November looking difficult, Apple would be most likely to ponder October as a suitable launch opportunity. It makes more sense for any firm engaged in making a product introduction to launch their offer in October.

That's partly because it maximizes available publicity, and also because it gives consumers a few extra weeks to pool their cash to buy whatever is being offered to them. Success in this is part of what has driven iPod nano sales during Apple's Christmas past, and delivered higher-than anticipated iPhone 4S sales last year.

Interestingly, October is also when the first devices runnig Windows 8 for mobile are expected to be out, with Samsung's Galaxy S3 expected to appear in a Win 8 incarnation that month

Monday October 8 is Columbus Day, a US public holiday. I've been watching Apple quite a long time and note the company rarely introduces new product in a week containing a public holiday. That's partly because its staff (gasp) sometimes need time off, and also because public holidays tend to blunt the focus of audiences and media reportage.

This means the second week in October is out of the picture. Take a look at Apple's previous iPhone introductions and you'll see that the company seems to enjoy announcement of new models in the first or second week of the month.

October 2?

Logically this makes October 2 (a Tuesday, though under Tim Cook, Apple also seems quite keen on Thursday product launches) the most logical launch date for the iPhone 5. Should that prove unviable, then October 16 makes sense, with the product set to hit the US and other key international markets two weeks later at the end of the month, just before Halloween.

On that basis I'm estimating October 2 or October 16 as the most likely launch dates. Out of interest and courtesy of Astrolabe, here's the astrology chart for October 2:


[ABOVE: If 'born' on October 2, Astrolabe tells us the new iPhone's rising sign would make it: "Extremely active by nature, you like to get around, meet people and do different things. Very restless, you just can't seem to stay put. You need to be involved in several projects at once in order to keep your mind stimulated. You like to read books and to write letters and to talk -- constantly. Seemingly ageless, you will always appear to be much younger than you really are. Very adaptable and inquisitive, you are always open to new ideas and experiences. A "jack-of-all-trades", you are lively and versatile."]

Defining doubt and uncertainty

Naturally, these estimates are subject to the following glaring areas of doubt and uncertainty. This speculation is not rubber-clad:

  • Apple could surprise us all and launch the device earlier than expected.
  • The company could surprise us even more and launch the device early next year, after watching how devices running Windows 8 (set to ship in Fall) perform in the market. A later launch could even make sense in terms of enabling 4G support in more countries.
  • Apple executives could read my highly speculative report (if they ever read anything I write, of course) and see it as reason enough to scratch October 2 and 16 launches from their diaries. No one likes to be too predictable, Apple least of all.
  • Apple could choose to abandon the iPod range with the exception of low cost players, introducing its new iPhone along with a new version of iTunes and (potentially) an Apple television at its now traditional-seeming music product launch event in September. I think this unlikely, but not impossible.

Summing up, for the present or until I hear fresh news offering more insight into Apple's launch plans, I'm scheduling October 2 and 16 as potential dates for the company's next big iPhone reveal. Are you with me?

Let me know in comments below.

What else can we expect from iPhone 5?

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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