Forget Fall -- Are New iPhones Still on for a Summer Launch?

Last week, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) CEO Tim Cook uttered two words that have caused quite a ruckus among Street analysts following the Mac maker. Perhaps it was an inadvertent slip. Perhaps it was just an overgeneralization. Perhaps investors are simply overanalyzing Cook's prepared remarks.

How much should investors read into Cook's comment that Apple has exciting new hardware, software, and services to introduce "this fall?"

Forget fall
Cook's hints have been broadly interpreted throughout the Street that new iPhones aren't due out until later this year, contrary to prior rumors that Apple was targeting a June or July launch. That assumption has subsequently led to a slew of downward estimate revisions for the June quarter, since Apple always sees a slowdown ahead of rumored product launches.

Well, perhaps Apple was just being coy. A purported carrier pricing document has leaked out of Japan's KDDI that suggests that the iPhone 5S may in fact launch in July, following pre-orders beginning on June 20. The pricing sheet indicates that the new flagship model will carry a fingerprint reader and beefed up 13-megapixel image sensor -- in line with what investors are already expecting on the feature side.

It's a relatively sketchy rumor, but certainly teases the possibility that Apple may have been able to pull the iPhone product cycle forward to fend off the competition. Supply chain rumblings suggest that Apple is still having some manufacturing difficulties integrating the fingerprint sensor, which likely remains the wild card. If Apple can overcome to technical hurdles, then the company would probably be able to orchestrate a summer launch.

There was also another possible clue that an earlier iPhone might be in the cards. Audio codec supplier Cirrus Logic (NASDAQ: CRUS  ) preannounced some gloomy figures earlier this month, which caused both Cirrus and Apple to tank. However, Cirrus' language suggested that Apple was already migrating to a newer component, which could theoretically hint at an earlier refresh.

On the flip side, Apple's own guidance calls for some softness, with revenue expected to decline by 4% at the low end. If things go swimmingly, Apple's high-end outlook calls for revenue to grow by a modest 1%.

If a June launch were in store, then I'd expect the company to unveil the device at its Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC, in June. WWDC kicks off on June 10, so investors won't have to wait long to see if Apple does or doesn't say anything during the opening keynote.

There is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.


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