Rumor pegs September release for two new iPhones

by Phil Hornshaw

Last week, the Internet circulated some contradictory rumors about Apple’s next iPhone release. One said we’d receive an incremental, not-so-amazing new iPhone (call it the iPhone 4S) in September; the other said there’d be a full-blown new iPhone 5 with design updates and everything, coming in August.

When those two rumors came out, the iPhone 5 in August seemed the weaker of the two, and most tech blogs I read dismissed it as probably being untrue. The majority of the “information” that has “leaked” out of Apple regarding the next iPhone has supported the iPhone 4S theory, as well as that September release date. September is the announced launch of iOS 5, which just about everyone believes will be accompanied by a new iPhone, and September more or less marks the beginning of holiday shopping.

Now there’s a new rumor to start this week, but it reconciles well with not just one, but both the rumors that came out last week. It comes from an analyst who believes Apple won’t be releasing a phone in September – it’ll be releasing two. That conveniently validates what we’ve been hearing about the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5.

The story, from Fortune, goes like this: Analyst Chris Whitmore of Deutsche Bank is telling his clients to expect both handsets in September. The iPhone 4S is basically everything we’ve heard so far. It’ll be an incremental update more or less like the iPhone 4, with the faster A5 dual-core processor Apple introduced in the iPad 2, and will be released unlocked. Here’s a quote from the Fortune story:

“‘With Nokia and RIMM struggling,’ he writes, ‘the time is right for Apple to aggressively penetrate the mid range smart-phone market (i.e. $300-500 category) to dramatically expand its [total addressable market] and market share.’

As Whitmore sees it, an iPhone 4S that is unlocked, priced around $349, and comes with a pre-paid voice plan would ‘drive significantly greater penetration’ into an addressable market that has grown to include 1.5 billion potential customers in 98 countries, two thirds of whom prefer pre-paid plans.”

Apple just started selling the iPhone 4 unlocked earlier this month. Unlocked smartphones have a bigger market outside of the U.S. than they do here, where users can jump from plan to plan or carrier to carrier just by swapping SIM cards in and out of the devices. But a prepaid iPhone 4S could have significant traction in the States as well, as it would potentially give non-AT&T or Verizon customers an in-road to the iPhone without having to deal with contracts and the like.

Whitmore also states that Apple will be bringing the iPhone 5 out as well, and that this will be a big alteration from the iPhone 4, complete with a hardware redesign and new features. Basically, there’s no new information on the iPhone 5 front as far as rumors of what it will include, except that it’ll be likely coming with the iPhone 4S in September.

It’s important to note, as Fortune points out, that Whitmore doesn’t cite his information at all. He could very well be making educated guesses based on nothing but his own notions. But this is what he’s telling his investor clients to expect to happen in the next few months, and they pay him for that opinion: so it pays for him to be right. Hopefully that should suggest his information is more than just his own speculation based upon Apple’s moves and the market.

Until more information shakes loose to further corroborate Whitmore’s statements, we won’t know just how far to believe him, though. But his analysis does dovetail well with last week’s rumors from both Boy Genius Report and the Wall Street Journal. And Whitmore’s rumors do seem like they’d be smart moves on Apple’s part, which gives them perhaps a touch more credence.