At this point, various leaks have given us a pretty good glimpse into what Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) next-generation iPhone is slated to look like. It's all but confirmed that the next iPhone will be thinner, pack a larger display, and have upgraded internals relative to the prior-generation iPhone 5s.
However, what we don't know for sure is when Apple plans on releasing this next-generation iPhone to the eager masses. Some rumors have called for both a launch and availability at some point in September -- mirroring last year's iPhone launch time frame -- but a report from MacRumors citing a source with knowledge of an Apple Retail Store meeting suggests a later launch.
A couple of obvious problems with this rumor
According to the MacRumors source, Apple is slated to hold a media event on September 16 unveiling the next iPhone, with availability on October 14. As Motley Fool senior technology specialist Evan Niu points out, not only would it be uncharacteristic of Apple to launch an iPhone on a Tuesday -- it has traditionally launched devices on Fridays so that it could report back weekend sales numbers -- but Apple, ever secretive, doesn't tell its retail employees more than they need to know.
However, the problems with this "rumor" run even deeper. For instance, Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) -- Apple's chief rival -- is likely to launch its new Galaxy Alpha smartphone in August, and then its next generation Galaxy Note 4 shortly thereafter in early September. Both are slated to go head-to-head with Apple's flagship products.
Why should Apple give its most dangerous rival any more breathing room than it needs to?
An October launch for iPhone could mean a very crowded launch pipeline
In addition to the arguments above, it's worth noting that, during both 2012 and 2013, Apple launched new iPhone products in September, and then new iPads in October. Given that Apple has experienced lackluster iPad sales during the last few quarters, the product line is sorely in need of a refresh -- which is likely due in October of this year.
Sure, Apple could break with tradition and make available next-generation iPhones alongside new iPads in October; but there are advantages to staggering the launches. For example, most customers, no matter how great Apple's product lineup is, aren't likely to be able to shell out for new iPhones, iPads, and potentially an iWatch all in one shot.
Now, this rumor of an October iPhone launch could potentially make sense if Apple were to launch the 4.7-inch variant of the next iPhone in September, and then launch the alleged 5.5-inch variant in October, alongside new iPad models. While this would only serve to exacerbate fears that a 5.5-inch iPhone will further encroach upon Apple's iPad mini sales, Apple is likely to make significantly more in gross-margin dollars on the sale of a 5.5-inch iPhone than an iPad. This means that cannibalization fears may ultimately be overblown, particularly if Apple can grab more share in the very lucrative premium tier of the smartphone market.
Foolish bottom line
Apple is a very strategic company that will do what it needs to in order to maximize its sales and profitability from its pipeline of new products. Frankly, with Apple having explicitly acknowledged the impact of next-generation iPhone rumors on its fiscal Q3 results during its last earnings call, it doesn't seem likely that it will make customers wait any longer than necessary for next-generation iPhones.