A late-summer iOS 6, iPhone launch would boost Q4 earnings

The rumors are flying fast and furious today: Apple (s aapl) is reportedly set to announce a new iPhone and a scaled-down iPad on September 12, and then release at least the new iPhone on September 21. That report comes courtesy of iMore, which has said the dates come from sources that have been “proven accurate in the past.” The report builds on the pile of rumors surrounding a new, smaller iPad coming sometime later this year, and the timing it lays out would mean both the iPhone and iOS 6 would arrive a bit earlier than expected.
Apple tends to do only one upgrade per year, per device: so a new iPhone put on sale 11 months after the release of the previous model would be a slight change of strategy. Additionally, a new iPad model would in itself be a significant update to the company’s product lineup, and releasing it six months after the third-generation 9.7-inch iPad hit stores (as opposed to waiting until the next iPad launch in March or April) would be unusual. However, it would set up Apple to better defend its tablet turf this fall against competitors, including Google(s GOOG), Microsoft(s MSFT) and Amazon(s AMZN), undercutting the third-generation iPad in price and size by selling 7-inch tablets.
As far as the timing named in the report, on one hand, it makes sense: a Wednesday press event followed by a product release nine days later would echo the pattern Apple began with the iPhone 4S in October last year, just moved up a couple of weeks. But there’s something that doesn’t jive completely. iMore’s report says iOS 6 would be given a final presentation on September 12, and be released as a software update a week later, which would be September 19. Apple SVP of iOS Software Scott Forstall said at WWDC in June that iOS 6 will be released “sometime this fall.” If we want to be technical (and I think it’s fair to be with a detail-oriented company like Apple) fall doesn’t officially begin until September 22. So, these dates would technically make iOS 6, and a new iPhone, a very-late-summer launch.
Apple is obviously allowed to change its mind or deliver products earlier than expected. And delivering a new iPhone in late September would make for a lot of pleased customers waiting to upgrade their smartphones. There’s also a major benefit to releasing not only a new iPhone but perhaps a new, smaller iPad as well during that time frame: better quarterly earnings numbers.
In other words, timing the launch at the end of its fiscal fourth quarter would be one way to avoid repeating what happened in its fiscal fourth quarter last year — and again in its fiscal third, reported last week — with Apple seeing its iPhones sales dip while customers wait until October for a new iPhone. Even a late-in-the-quarter release (the quarter ends Sept. 30), would result in one of the company’s typically insane launch weekend numbers press releases, which would be encouraging to investors. While Apple is typically not a short-term thinking company, it’s proven itself under CEO Tim Cook to be more much more sensitive to the concerns of Wall Street.
Update: AllThingsD backs up iMore’s report, saying it’s also hearing that Apple “is currently planning an event for that week.”