Why iPhone 5 Isn’t Coming in June or July

If you don’t know already, for the past four years since the iPhone’s inauguration, Apple has released a handset in the summer (normally June or July). This has been to much fanfare as most evangelists haven’t had their hands on a new one since the previous year. However, it’s only February and one iPhone version has already been launched. Then there’s rumors of the white one coming out next and then the iPhone 5 in the summer?

Would Apple really release three versions of it’s device throughout the first half of the year? Let’s see if we can debunk those rumors!

Let me start by noting that the ideas expressed in this article are pure speculation and of my opinion only. However, hopefully I can bring some interesting points up, because in my mind, they fit together quite nicely.

The Verizon iPhone

The first factor in dissuading a summer release is the recent release of the Verizon iPhone. Now, it’s not just as simple as putting in a new sim card. Verizon is a CDMA-based network meaning that Apple had to redesign part of their phone in order to guarantee compatibility. The question is, why would Apple release a new phone – constraining their supply lines at the same time – only to further constrain their supply lines a few months down the line? Apple has a history of high-demand, low-supply and you’re saying they’ve planned to launch two predictably-successful products in quick succession? I doubt it.

Then you wonder: Wouldn’t summer be an excellent opportunity to capitalize on the existing Verizon handset? Many AT&T iPhone 3GS owners will be coming to the end of their 24-month contract and probably willing to move. The iPhone 4 saw the biggest change in the iPhone’s history so I doubt iPhone 5 will have that many new features outside of spec boosts: why not tout CDMA as the “revolutionary” development?

Plus, there are rumors that iPhone 5 will feature a dual GSM/CDMA chip making us wonder, why are Apple effectively starting fragmentation on it’s devices?

The iPhone hit Verizon on February 3rd. It was their most successful first day of sales ever.

The White iPhone

Let’s have look at another version of the iPhone 4. Back at Steve Jobs’ WWDC keynote in June of 2010, he showed off a white iPhone as well as the now-released black version. Originally, this was to ship with the black one. It has since been delayed time and time again, supposedly due to technical issues with the camera. Now, the carriers over here in the UK have been featuring the white iPhone on their websites in addition to Verizon. Rumors now suggest that it’s coming out in late March.

Again, why would Apple release another version just three months before an update? My opinion (and this is just pure speculation) is that Apple isn’t releasing and iPhone 5, but rather using the white one as an upgrade incentive for those same iPhone 3GS owners coming off their contracts.

And there’s just one more thing. Today we’re announcing the well-anticipated *laughs from crowd* white iPhone, on Verizon *ridiculous amounts of applause*

"Can't touch this..." - Image: cc-by-sa Matthew Yohe

Near-Field Communications

The final reason is one I’m not quite sure about, but could be a contributing factor. Apple is believed to be integrating an NFC chip into it’s iOS devices to facilitate payments over-the-air from your bank account (or even iTunes balance – which would be epic!) to a retailer. Unfortunately, this type of system would require the retail adoption of both Apple’s retail stores and many other companies. Plus, if this was the key feature of the iPhone 5, it would really need to see a larger presence worldwide. This would take some time.

Again, in a fit of pure speculation, I think Apple might release NFC equipment with the iPad 2. This update will have so many new features (camera, possible higher res display, faster internals) that NFC will just be another item of the list. Establishing their interest in NFC (and making everyone know it’s coming in the iPhone 5) will give retailers a hint that they need to start work. No doubt Apple will sell equipment or require “Made for iPhone” branding.

Visa is already testing out NFC capabilities in Europe. Image: cc-by-nc Gawker

4G/LTE Connectivity

On the same line as NFC, Apple could want to implement 4G networking into it’s upcoming update. Like with NFC, Apple’s not the type to launch on half-ready infrastructure so it’s likely they could be waiting until Verizon and AT&T’s network structure is more mature. Again, this is an inevitable feature but one that’s not quite ready to Apple’s standard.

When is the iPhone 5 coming then?

Maybe I’ve persuaded you to my frame of mind. So, when do I think iPhone 5 is coming out? Simply put, I don’t know.

One other potential reason for a delay would be Apple’s focus on the Mac during this year’s WWDC with the release of Lion and the guaranteed slur of demos involved. Sure it’s a One More Thing type of announcement, but Apple might be planning a retail push of software upgrades and new Lion-equipped hardware.

My first theory is that Apple could release it in October or November. Apart from a potential MacBook Air update, there probably isn’t anything blockbuster out then. This would also provide a prime victim for the holiday-buying period.

My second mind suggests no update at all this year. I mean, is Apple really going to keep on releasing iPhones every year until iPhone 20? A release cycle will need to slow down eventually. Maybe the iPhone is at it’s peak feature-wise.

Final Thoughts

Whether you agree with me or not, Apple’s speech at WWDC 2011 will be an interesting one. If Apple does release iPhone 5, I’m a little unsure how many non-decimal upgrades there will be. If it doesn’t, it could signal the end of yearly refreshes. However, I’d probably expect them to migrate to an 18-month refresh cycle instead.

I’m on the fence about making an iPhone purchase just yet. I’m definitely waiting until June to see if Apple does release iPhone 5. If not, I’ll be on Apple’s online store ordering one the same day.