The case for and against a September iPhone 5 launch

It happens every year, and yet somehow, every time feels like the first time. Everyone knows Apple (s aapl) will launch a new iPhone, but no one knows quite when. Friday saw new claims as to when it might arrive, so it’s a good opportunity to look at the sum total of iPhone 5 release date rumors and see where we end up.

The case for September

The report just released Friday morning is arguably one of the stronger ones in favor of a September release. It comes from Japanese blog Kodawarisan, which says that Apple will hold a media event on Sept. 7, according to an insider source, which would coincide with the time it usually has an iPod-related event at which new models of the media player are revealed. Macrumors believes that this year, the iPhone 5 will also make its debut alongside new iPods. Kodawarisan doesn’t often chime in with rumors. When it has in the past, it’s been fairly accurate. It predicted the correct launch date of new Macs back in 2009, for example.

Add to that another new report from Friday morning, which stems from NAND flash memory market analysis firm inSpectrum (via DigiTimes). InSpectrum says that Apple’s iPhone 5 will be available in September, citing this as a reason why NAND flash traders expect prices of the component to rebound in the near future, after having dropped recently. DigiTimes has a decent reputation when it comes to sourcing information from within Apple’s supply chain.

Thursday, another report surfaced from iPhoneinCanada that claimed Rogers (s rog) (a major Canadian cellular service provider) employees were beginning “pre-launch training” for iPhone 5. Based on the same source, the blog discovered that employees went through similar training just over two weeks ahead of the iPhone 4 launch last year.

Analysts also seem to agree that September is a safe bet for the iPhone 5. RBC Capital Markets (s ry) analyst Mike Abramsky reiterated early this month that he believes the iPhone is still on track for a September release, based on supply chain data, comments from Apple executives made during the company’s earnigns call, and vacation blackout dates for AT&T (s t) retail employees in late September.

The September rumor is also something we’ve been hearing for a long time. It was first reported back in May by Reuters, and at the time I suggested that it might be a intentional move by Apple to mitigate investor expectations heading into WWDC.

The case against September

The strongest evidence so far that Apple might not release the iPhone in September as the reports listed above suggest is a recent claim by AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski that we’ll see the next iPhone in October instead, and later in that month, too. Paczkowski cites multiple sources, and says that the AT&T vacation blackout is unrelated.

To be fair, the new report from Kodawarisan might actually back Paczkowski up. Judging by the Google translation of Kodawarisan’s post, it seems to be suggesting that the event will likely be focused on new iPods, and that the iPhone 5 is more likely to be announced separately in either late September or late October. And even if Apple does announce a new iPhone at a September media event, that doesn’t mean it’ll be available to the public right away; a month-long delay would not be completely out of character for Apple.

BGR also partially supported the idea an October release date, reporting in August that the iPhone 5 would be launching in Canada on provider Telus in October. The report was based on an internal smartphone release roadmap, however, which may just have included the Oct. 1 release date as a placeholder for the iPhone 5. Apple has also sometimes released the iPhone simultaneously in Canada and the U.S., and sometimes not, so it’s hard to tell whether it might not arrive earlier in the U.S., even if the information from Telus is correct. A report from July from iPhone Italia claimed that the iPhone 5 would be available first in the U.S. in September, and then in October internationally.


Evidence seems to be stacking up more in favor of a September launch, rather than an October release. It makes sense for Apple to release in September, first because the iPod isn’t the media darling it once was, and also because it looks like the Samsung Galaxy S II will be announced in late August for the U.S. market. No better way to cut off the competition than to prevent it from getting a foothold to begin with.

Of course, it’s also possible that the reason we’re hearing conflicting info around this date is that Apple itself is conflicted; the next iPhone is reportedly “complicated” and “difficult to assemble,” after all, which might mean that there’s still a question of whether production can reach acceptable volume in time for a September release. Pushing a release into October also limits the benefit a new iPhone release would have on Apple’s final 2011 financial quarter, which closes at the end of September. Initial iPhone 5 sales would really help the company’s year end on a high note with investors.

For what it’s worth, after checking out all the reports mentioned above, and having watched this story develop, I’m willing to bet on September as the most likely launch time frame. What about you?