Remember that “official” report from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) that the iPhone 5 release would be in September? I sure do, since I took it as gospel myself. Well, it turns out that sources might have either misinterpreted or misconstrued the situation.
Turns out a more likely iPhone 5 release date will be in October. Of course, that’s just a rumor, too …
For the record, the previous Apple rumors that pointed to a September release had good credibility. There were a host of reports from AT&T (NYSE:T) wireless workers who claimed the company had blacked out vacation requests for the last two weeks of September in anticipation of a big “event.” Uh, iPhone release, anyone?
Not so, claims a recent All Things Digital report. “I don’t know why AT&T’s calling for all hands on deck those weeks, but it’s not for an iPhone launch,” an inside Apple source told the tech site.
And then you had the storied Wall Street Journal citing Apple’s component manufacturers. In addition to describing a much sleeker iPhone 5 with amped-up processing speeds and a major camera upgrade to an 8-megapixel device, these suppliers hinted at a September release date to the WSJ.
The same Apple source told All Things Digital that the September date is too aggressive, and other insiders have hinted it might not even be early October but closer to the end of the month.
What’s going on here? Well, obviously, Apple and Steve Jobs are doing their magical release dance — as they have done for each of the previous incarnations of the iPhone. This kind of misinformation and hype is all just part of the show — and part of the Apple mystique.
However, investors have reason to view this time differently.
Apple typically launches its new iPhone models in the summer, so the company already is a few months behind schedule, causing some Wall Street analysts to dampen expectations for the stock. The delayed launch naturally means delayed profits this fiscal year.
I’m not talking the initial surge — Apple sold a stunning 3 million iPhone 4s in the first three weeks after the smartphone’s debut. It surely will sell millions of the new incarnation in the first month alone, meaning even a November launch date would juice 2011 numbers nicely.
But the fact is that sales don’t happen all at once. Customers trickle in over time — and, more importantly for Apple to acknowledge, the iPhones themselves trickle in over time, too. You can’t just wave a magic wand and make 4 million iPhones appear in New York City’s Apple Store overnight.
Apple is running the risk of seeing strong demand work against the smartphone this time around by creating massive distribution bottlenecks, supply-chain disruptions and frustration at retail outlets. It’s all well and good for the iPhone to sell out on its first day and create the air of exclusivity. But if Apple is overwhelmed by folks looking to upgrade their phone — not unrealistic considering this iPhone 5 launch will come 16 months after the iPhone 4 hit stores. Besides, if the initial clamor for the iPhone lasts four to six weeks as is typical, that will overlap with the critical holiday shopping season.
It’s also interesting to consider that Apple is a moneymaker for many other folks in the world outside of Cupertino, Calif. App developers can’t finalize their software until the secretive gatekeepers at Apple give them the details, and accessory makers can’t get to work on sleeves or add-ons until they know the precise dimensions and the location of headphone jacks and camera lenses. This delay might or might not wind up hurting Apple’s sales, but it certainly is weighing on related companies.
The hardest thing of all about these Apple iPhone 5 release rumors is the fact each one only makes things more confusing. There’s nothing investors can do to change the timetable, and there’s nothing we can really act on since nothing has been confirmed.
But Wall Street hates uncertainty — and the more uncertainty that swirls around Apple’s iPhone launch, the more it might take a toll on the stock despite Apple’s recent historic high above $400 per share.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks named here. Follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook.