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Why would the new iPhone launch in September rather than October?

Why would the new iPhone launch in September rather than October?

Last week we noted a report claiming that Apple may be having battery manufacturing issues with the new iPhone. A Chinese article discovered by investment analyst Brian White indicated that at this point only 1 in 3 batteries coming off the line meet with Apple’s standards. Of course it’s not unusual for large scale manufacturing to be solving some last minute production issues – recall the reports of competing manufacturers trying to gear up to produce the Retina Display for the new iPad through the end of 2011 and early months of 2012.

White expects Apple to work out any manufacturing issues in time, and so do we. What’s interesting is that White is expecting a September launch rather than the October launch that so many others have been predicting. The iPhone 4S launching last year in October, and given Apple’s propensity for annual cycles it’s easy to see why most industry pundits have expected this.

On the other hand, this is now Tim Cook’s Apple, and it’s not yet clear whether he will place the same emphasis on the annular cycles that the late Steve Jobs did. What about the timing? September is shaping up to be a busy month – Windows 8 is expected to launch in September, and Nokia World happens that month as well, which should see the introduction of Windows Phone 8 devices (although the launch may happen a bit later). Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2 is also expected in September, so the month will be short on media “oxygen”.

That might be one reason for Apple to want to launch in earlier in September – no one can steal the thunder from other launches better than Apple, and a new iPhone announcement would amount to an all-out assault on how much mind share Windows 8/RT/Phone devices get. The Galaxy Note in particular was a surprise hit the first time around, and Apple may not want it give it the chance to get off to a strong start without a new iPhone model on the market.

Waiting may not really be an advantage anyways – most people expect the new Nexus phones to be announced later in October, and if there’s one topic that can almost compete with an iPhone launch it would be several new Nexus devices. Besides – Apple tends to get monster holiday sales regardless of when they announce, so compressing the time between launch date and the holiday shopping season may not really help drive sales – especially if the number of units available fail to meet demand well into the holiday season.

So in the end a September launch makes a lot of sense. Especially if one other rumor pans out – that Apple wants to refresh its tablet lineup in the second half of the year. We’ve been hearing this rumor for over a year (and it didn’t pan out last year), but Apple may be looking to put the A6 processor into the new top-tier iPads, letting the current iPad trickle down to the $399 price point currently occupied by last year’s iPad 2. With Microsoft Surface, a larger Kindle Fire, and even a larger Nexus tablet rumored for launches later this year, Apple may feel the heat to try and maintain the iPad's position as the clear choice for "premium" tablets. And since Apple doesn't like to combine events, perhaps a September iPhone launch could clear the way for an October iPad event?

We'll find out this fall for certain. Let us know what you expect Apple to do!

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