Smartphone fans looking to scratch their annual iPhone itch are coming up empty.

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) has historically put out its new iPhone around June or July. Those looking for early clues are coming up empty. Where's the prototype misplaced in a California bar? Where's the chatty Taiwanese component maker fessing up to DigiTimes? Where's the wireless carrier store warning its hires about thinning availability of the current iPhone?

It seems as if the earlier whispers of a delay in the fifth-generation iPhone are spot-on. We won't be seeing the iPhone 4S until September.

Ready for a surprise? The sixth incarnation of Apple's iconic smartphone may actually be out as early as January.

Wedbush Securities analyst Scott Sutherland seems to think so, indicating as such in a bullish note on Apple.

Sutherland's sources and gut instincts point to September's iPhone 4S as packing a better camera and a dual-core processor. The real game changer, though, would be the iPhone 5 coming out just four months later.

The iPhone 5 would finally cash in on faster 4G speeds. It also would work across CDMA and GSM wireless networks, essentially eliminating the need to crank out separate models for Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T).

However, there would be an interesting psychological wrinkle introduced here. The first four iPhones hit the market in either late June or early July. What would it mean for the consumer if the iPhone 4S came out 15 months after the iPhone 4? What would it mean if the iPhone 5 were to come out just four months after the iPhone 4S?

The one thing it would probably do is keep sales running brisk all year long. Customers would no longer fear buying a springtime iPhone, fearing that a better model was just weeks away.

Keeping smartphone owners guessing would also help it respond more quickly to the competitive marketplace. Handset manufacturers building on Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android operating system are in a perpetual state of one-upmanship. Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) doesn't refresh its BlackBerry line in annual intervals. If the market craves something, nimble companies can provide it.

Apple just became more nimble -- even if the waiting may be driving you and your upgrade cycle crazy.

What would you like to see in the new iPhone? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.