The upgrade cycle for Apple's iPhone and iPod touch may change slightly and those who amuse themselves (or make their living) from predicting apple's release schedule by reading tea leaves are abuzz. It was taken as a given that Apple would be showing off their next phone and the accompanying software upgrade at their developer's conference this June. Those announcements have been coming at predictable intervals, which is remarkable for a company that seems to value secrecy more than the KGB. Ars Technica reports the schedule for previous years as follows:
Also at WWDC, Apple would announce the new version of the iPhone hardware—iPhone 3G in 2008, iPhone 3GS in 2009, and iPhone 4 in 2010. The new hardware typically came with the newest iOS and usually shipped within a month of the announcement. Previous iPhone (and iPod touch) users have been able to download the update about the same time as the new iPhone hardware shipped. WWDC 2011 may be all software, signaling change in iPhone strategy - Ars Technica
Apple has yet to be able to deliver the white version of the iPhone4 they promised when the standard, black phone was announced last year. (Now they are semi-officially promising it by the Spring) Perhaps Apple recognizes how embarrassing it would be to release iPhone5 before they have worked out the manufacturing kinks of producing a white version for the previous model?
A larger business issue I think is that the ink has not yet dried on all the new iPhone4 contracts on Verizon. The backlash from that customer base would be pretty severe. To wait all these years to be able to have an iPhone without an AT&T contract only to come to the product less than six months before the end of its life? Apple depends on their customers feverishly upgrading their devices every time there is a bump up in features or spec, but that might be too much to ask in this case.
Also, as the Ars Technica article mentions, Apple may just want to delay things so that they can get all the idevices on the same software upgrade cycle. IPad users had to wait for iOS 4.2 to be able to get in the door for the fast-app-switching party (don't call it multitasking).
I have managed to control my own upgrade fever re:iPad2. All that I needed was a short cool off period without where I promised myself not to use my credit card for any large, unplanned purchases. I can make it another year without a new iPad, the world might managed a bit longer without the new iPhone.