Saturday, December 11, 2010

When Is iPhone 5 Coming?

Convention says that the iPhone 5 will not be out until the middle of 2011.  June has been the month that Apple released new iPhones since the iPhone 2G.  That did not change for the 3G, 3GS, or the iPhone 4.  Could 2011 be the year that Apple changed all that?  Here's why I think perhaps they might go ahead and change things up a bit.

There is a lot riding in the mobile market.  Tens of billions and Apple and Google are locked in an epic war for supremacy.  And with Google and its multiple Android hardware partners, they can easily stagger their device releases through the year, giving mobile warriors the appearance that something new and fresh is coming out of the Android camp.  

But with Android 3 release coming in the first quarter, giving Google the ability to attack the tablet market, I think Apple is in a position to consider moving up the time table for the iPhone 5 release. 

Just this week, Best Buy in the US gave out the iPhone 3GS for free with a two year contract while Radio Shack went ahead with a $50 discount on the iPhone 4 that cleared out its inventory.  So make no mistake that Apple is barely able to keep up with demand on the iPhone, but what Best Buy and Radio Shack may indicate that Apple is open to tweaking their sales model.

And if that was the case, Apple may also be open to adjusting their iPhone release plans.  And with so much at stake, I can see two things happen.

First, Apple might move up the release of iPhone 5 from June to March or April.  This will stunt any moves by its competitors to find solace in a period that typical is safe for them to release their smartphones without going up against the iPhone.  Remember when Palm released the Pre just a week or so before the iPhone 3GS?  Yeah, that didn't go well, did it?  And the Pre was a pretty neat phone by my reckoning.

Second, Apple might update the iPhone 4 with some hardware changes.  Google just announced the Nexus S with near field communication capability.  Apple might also jump on this and get into the mobile payment market before the iPhone 5.  Also, remember that we are still missing the white iPhone 4.  Apple said it will be available in Spring.   That might also keep the iPhone sale momentum going as millions of consumers look to satisfy their need to have a white iPhone.  

So adding NFC and a white case could be just enough to keep consumers from going with whatever new hardware that Google, HP, or Microsoft comes out in the first half of 2011. 

And let's not forget that Apple will be updating the iPad as well.  There are talks about hardware enhancements that I still consider as rumors.  However, my own speculations and observations of the market with the Samsung Tab release, the upcoming Playbook from RIM, and other Android tablet rumors seem to indicate most if not all of the iPad chatters are true.

Are we likely to see an earlier release window for the iPhone 5?  I wouldn't say it's impossible but it's not likely to happen.  I'd say some minor changes to the iPhone 4 is more likely.  And that is beyond just release it in white.  Personally, I would love to see an enhanced iPhone 4 move up to March and the iPad release moved up to February.

We'll just have to see how much pressure Apple is willing to take from its competitors.  And with the iPhone selling out or in short supply, I'm not sure Apple feels the need to budge.  Let's go back to what Best Buy and Radio Shack is doing for the Christmas season.  If that can happen, anything can.

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