There was a time when the mid-year launch for Apple's flagship smartphone was almost an ironclad rule. But with the release of its fifth generation iPhone, the iPhone 4S, on Oct. 4, 2011, the Cupertino-based tech giant broke that tradition, making way for recent rumors that suggested the company might launch its sixth-gen iPhone, presumably named iPhone 5, in the second half of 2012. Thereby abandoning the mid-year launches and considering a 12-month iPhone upgrade cycle, starting in the fall.
The highly anticipated iPhone 5 is not likely to hit stores before the fall.
Despite rumors of the fall release, some still believe that with the next iPhone iteration, Apple will move back to its own June release timeframe. There were reports saying that the iPhone 5 would be unveiled at the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, bringing an end to an eight-month-long life span of the current iPhone 4S.
Japanese Apple-watcher website Macotakara came up with an interesting report earlier this week, in which it said that during a conversation on TV Tokyo's "World Business Satellite" (WBS) show, a Foxconn recruiter revealed that the company was hiring about 18,000 people to manufacture the iPhone 5 which would be sold in June.
AppleInsider, taking the information, provided by a Foxconn recruitment officer, with a pinch of salt stated, "it's unclear how a low-level employee within the company would already know Apple's release schedule when the iPhone maker is notorious for its high level of secrecy."
A report in The Motley Fool also seemed concerned about Apple's secrecy and said that the iPhone-maker would never confirm or deny such a loose-lipped leak. "It may not necessarily be true. Even if the first iPhone 5 handsets begin rolling off the Foxconn assembly line in June, it could still be weeks or months before the retail release takes place," the report added.
However, the report didn't completely ignore the possibilities and mentioned a few reasons why a June iPhone 5 release would make "perfect" sense.
Apple Has Historically Released iPhones in June or July
Apple introduced the first generation iPhone in June 2007. Same was the case with its successor, iPhone 3G, a year later. The company stuck to June again with releases of the iPhone 3GS in 2009 and the iPhone 4 in 2010. Then came the major exception, the iPhone 4S, hitting stores way back in October, last year.
While there was no clear reason for the delayed release of the iPhone 4S, many analysts think that it was Apple's failed attempt at executing 4G LTE technology into the phone that held back the much-awaited launch.
4G LTE is Here Now
Assuming that deployment of 4G LTE was indeed the reason behind the delayed release of the iPhone 4S, the next iPhone looks fit to be released in June since the technology is now well established. After Apple confirmed the 4G LTE inclusion in the new iPad, a number of sources have stated that the upcoming model of the iPhone will also incorporate the same technology.
"AT&T and Verizon are finally far enough in their 4G rollouts to support Apple's dreams of faster connectivity," The Motley Fool report said. "If the iPad can now do it, so can a properly equipped iPhone."
Nokia Lumia 900: May Not Be a Threat, But Could Make a Dent
Taking both Nokia's and Microsoft's hope forward, the new Nokia Lumia 900 is all set to hit AT&T store shelves Sunday at a price tag of $99 with a two-year contract. Running on Windows Phone 7.5 Mango, the smartphone features an eye-catching unibody design, coupled with key features like LTE support, vivid 4.3-inch screen and an 8-megapixel camera.
Though Apple isn't afraid of Microsoft or Nokia, the new Windows phone could make a dent, considering that it's "Microsoft's boldest bet yet on its fledgling mobile operating system." Besides that, the phone's attractive price can also make a huge difference.
If Nokia Lumia 900 does gain any kind of traction, Apple would like to take the wind out of the device's sales by releasing the iPhone 5 sooner than later.
Tim Cook Could Be Concerned About Investors
Why would Tim Cook and company want to get the iPhone release cycle back on historical track? According to The Motley Fool report, despite being "on tear over the past decade", Apple's stock plundered between July and September last year. Among many possible reasons, two important ones could be the delayed launch of the iPhone 4S or Steve Jobs's health crisis. "Either way, CEO Tim Cook could overcome both concerns by getting Apple back to its early summer iPhone releases," said the report.
Why An October Release May Be The Likeliest Bet
According to The iPhone 5 News Blog, Apple would be inclined to pull the trigger on a June iPhone 5 release, if there were a decrease in the iPhone 4S sales, but there's hardly any sign of that so far. "In Apple's fiscal first quarter ending Dec. 31, 2011, the company reported iPhone sales of 37 million, an increase of 128% year-over-year, and the 4S was only released in some markets as recently as January."
The site cited a recent Gartner report, saying that "Apple had an exceptional fourth quarter, selling 35.5 million smartphones to end users, a 121.4 percent increase year on year." The market research firm also predicted that "Apple's performance in the smartphone sector would continue through the first quarter of 2012 as availability of the iPhone 4S widened, although with residual pent-up demand pretty much fulfilled, iPhone 4S sales would no longer benefit from that factor as they had in Q4 2011, and its analysts projected sales declining somewhat quarter-on-quarter."
iMore's Rene Ritchie, who claims to have "valuable sources from within Apple" under his reach, predicted an October 2012 release for the next-gen iPhone in March.
Ritchie is known for his solid track record with Apple-related news. In August, 2011, he correctly predicted that Apple was going to release its then next iPhone in the first week of October and that the phone would be called "iPhone 4S," not "iPhone 5." In addition, Ritchie also foretold the new iPad's March 7 unveiling.
What Ritchie is saying now about the upcoming iPhone is that the device will be 4G LTE compatible. Referring to the next iPhone as "iPhone 5,1", the Apple clairvoyant said that the phone is on track for a "similar if not same sized screen" and a new "micro dock" connector.
Regarding a new version iOS, accompanying the iPhone 5, Ritchie said that every new iPhone launch has seen the release of a new OS version next to it. While there has not been any exact information on how large an update Apple might be planning for iOS 6, "9 months doesn't sound like a lot of time for even a modest release."
The last version, iOS 5, was a major update with key features like iCloud and Siri, "and Apple made good use of those 16 months to bring it to market."
"If Apple announces an iOS 6 SDK event this spring, like they did from 2008 to 2010, then we may start getting an idea," Ritchie said. "If iOS 6 isn't introduced to developers until WWDC, presumably in the summer like 2011, then a fall release would seem a certainty."
As far as the ever-increasing rumor mill is concerned, other features that are likely to be added to the iPhone include 3.7- to 4-inch Quantum Dot LED curved glass edge-to-edge display with 1280 x 720 resolutions (367ppi), a 1.2 to 1.5 GHz A6 processor with 1GB or more of RAM, Near Field Communication (NFC) technology and better battery life.
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