iPhone 5 release date faces 4S-incuded 4-12 month wait for Sprint etc.
October 6, 2011 by Bill Palmer
by Bill Palmer
The rise of the iPhone 4S dictates that the iPhone 5 release date won’t be in 2011. Not on new favorite son Sprint. Not on uneasy recent partner Verizon. And not on old frenemy AT&T. But rest easy, it won’t be in 2012 either. The fate of the iPhone 5 now comes down to Apple’s strategy as much as whatever manufacturing or component issues which held it up in the first place, as Tim Cook and the company must not only contend with the passing of Steve Jobs a mere one day after the 4S unveiling, but also the fact that it can’t very well turn around and launch the iPhone 5 a few weeks from now even if it is ready; backlash from 4S buyers would off the charts. So while Apple hasn’t said a word about the iPhone 5 or even so much as spoken the words “iPhone 5″ at any point, here’s a look at what logic, circumstance, and common sense dictate are the practical iPhone 5 release date scenarios. Listed by date, and handicapped by the odds of each happening…
January whiplash: This sees the iPhone 5 ready to go by January and, realizing that the iPhone 4S didn’t overwhelm anyone and opting to waste no time, holds a press event in mid January and gives the iPhone 5 a late January release date. Those who skipped the 4S will be thrilled, those who bought it in October will be more than a little ticked that their new iPhone just became obsolete three months later, particularly in light of stringent cell carrier upgrade pricing schemes. The iPhone 4S would also stick around as a bargain model, and would see a price cut of at least $100 as of the iPhone 5 arrival, leaving 4S buyers feeling not just disappointed but ripped off. This “too soon” scenario seems unlikely unless backlash against the 4S is really bad…
March turnabout: Turnabout as in “fair play” in Apple’s mind. The iPhone 4S will be half a year old by then, was never meant to be anything more than an interstitial model until the iPhone 5 was ready anyway, and could take its place as the new $99 mid-range iPhone model replacing the iPhone 4 which would become the free model (this would seem to have been Apple’s lineup plan all along had the iPhone 5 been ready). Those with their six month old 4G will still cry foul, but Apple could get its partners AT&T and Verizon and especially new motivated partner Sprint to allow 4S users to upgrade for a mere $200 above sticker instead of what otherwise might be $400 above sticker at that point. The biggest issue with this date is that the iPad 3 is expected to be unveiled in this timeframe, which Apple would have to dance around. Otherwise, March 2012 feels quite realistic. It’s difficult to believe the iPhone 5 won’t be ready by then. But there are later scenarios which could also play out.
June tradition: Every new iPhone but the 4S has seen a summer release date, with its corresponding new version of iOS having been previewed in the spring and then given to developers at WWDC in June. But this time could be different in that the iPhone 5 could end up running the same iOS 5 (or more realistically a variant such as iOS 5.5) as the 4S does now. Without needing to seed its OS to developers for an overlong time, Apple could easily introduce the iPhone 5 at WWDC and give a release date for late June. While some 4S early adopters would still complain about the mere nine month stretch in which their iPhone was the flagship model, at that point Apple wouldn’t care as those complaints wouldn’t gather steam – especially with summer being the iPhone’s traditional rollout timeframe to begin with.
October funk: If Apple opts to play it conservative and give the iPhone 4S a full year in the flagship role for no other reason than to play it safe, expect backlash of a different kind. There’s seemingly no reason for Apple to wait until next October to finally give the iPhone 5 a release date, our we’d instead point you to spring or summer as the most likely targets. But we gave up being able to make confident prediction regarding the iPhone 5 launch timeframe a long time ago; like everyone else, we’ve been wrong too many times on that particular front. Here’s more on the iPhone 5 release date.
Updated 9:10pm PST with additional information on iPhone 4S pricing