Apple to unveil iPhone 5 on Oct. 4, says report

AllThingsD blog pegs launch date; analyst says Apple will start sales shortly afterward

Apple will launch the next iPhone on Oct. 4, a technology blog said today, citing what it called "sources close to the situation."

The date, two weeks from yesterday, was pegged by the "AllThingsD" blog, operated by Dow Jones, the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, in a post today.

According to the blog, new CEO Tim Cook will preside over the introduction presentation, which will precede the new iPhone's availability by a "few weeks."

Apple has been mum, as is its practice, about the new iPhone's name -- most have dubbed it the "iPhone 5" -- and any changes from 2010's iPhone 4.

The timing seems right, a Wall Street analyst who follows Apple said today.

"[This] is in line with our thoughts for an October rollout," Brian White of Ticonderoga Securities said in a note issued to clients Wednesday after AllThingsD claimed the Oct. 4 date was accurate.

White speculated that Apple will start selling the iPhone 5 shortly after it announces the new model, reducing the lag time between introduction and availability that it last had with the iPhone 4 in June 2010.

Apple introduced the iPhone 4 on June 7, 2010, and put it on sale a little over two weeks later, on June 24.

"Apple should launch iPhone 5 with less lag time after the media event versus iPhone 4 given the later-than-typical unveiling," said White, referring to Apple's previous practice of launching a new iPhone in the early summers of 2007-2010.

White pointed out that Apple trimmed the lag time for the iPad 2 last March by introducing the new tablet on March 2 and kicking off sales just nine days later.

If Apple used a similar trajectory for the iPhone 5, it would start selling the smartphone Oct. 13 or Oct. 14. The latter is a Friday, a weekday often used by Apple for product launches.

Apple will also probably roll out the new iPhone faster to more markets than it has in the past, White said, repeating an assertion he had made before.

Last year, Apple sold the iPhone 4 in just a few countries -- France, Germany, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. -- at the start, following those with 18 others by the end of the following month and the remainder of its markets two months later.

"We [also] expect that China will play a more important role this time around," White said. China Unicom, still the only Chinese carrier authorized to sell the iPhone, began dealing the iPhone 4 near the end of September 2010, three months after the smartphone debuted in the U.S.

Reports have regularly circulated that China Mobile, the country's biggest mobile operator, will sell the next iPhone. White believes that China Telecom, which has the third-largest wireless subscriber base, may also get the iPhone 5 this year.

Apple's iPhone 5 roll-out will be a first on several fronts, including the first model introduced after co-founder Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO. Former COO Tim Cook was appointed in Jobs' place, and -- if he follows in Jobs' footsteps -- will presumably lead the media event.

Apple often uses the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to stage major product introductions, although it has also held them on its own Cupertino, Calif. campus.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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