Apple iPhone 5 production to begin ‘late August’ [update]

Evidence is heating up that Apple’s next-generation iPhone will be upon us before we know it. According to a new report by Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty, Apple will begin production of its new iPhone (Apple Insider calls it the “iPhone 5,” not the “iPhone 4S“) in “mid to late August.” The production schedule suggests Apple’s next-gen handset will be released late this year, possibly later than expected.

“Apple’s next iPhone will begin production in mid to late August and ramp aggressively” in the fourth quarter, Huberty wrote in her report, which was presented to clients on Sunday after meetings in Taiwan, purportedly with the companies that do the hands on assembly of their devices (like Foxconn).

If Huberty’s predictions are correct, this would place release of the next iPhone — whatever it’s called — to late September, at the earliest. We’ve been hearing a September release date for quite a while now. Of course, it’s impossible to know for sure when Apple plans to unveil the next trick in its bag. But when a rumor sticks around for months without changing, and only more evidence to back it up, there’s a good chance it will turn out true. And with iOS 5 confirmed for a “fall” debut, it’s likely that Apple will release its new iPhone at the same time as its new mobile OS.

Huberty’s rumor-enhancing data doesn’t stop there. According to her assessment, Apple will experience a “large” bump in iPhone units sold in 2012, which will come “on the back of new products and potentially lower price points.” It’s the “potentially lower price points” bit that has people talking, and speculating, once again, that Apple has a lower-priced ‘iPhone Nano’ in the works to compete against the growing number of inexpensive Android devices available.

On top of all that Huberty further backs claims that Apple is in the early stages of developing a full-blow television set. Once released, Huberty predicts that the device could boost Apple’s annual revenue by $19 billion.

UPDATE: Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore is telling investors that Apple plans to release both an iPhone 5 and an iPhone 4S, which would be cheaper (around $350), completely unlocked, and come with a pre-paid voice plan option, reports Forbes. Whitmore says that, with Nokia and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion on the ropes, “the time is right for Apple to aggressively penetrate the mid range smart-phone market (i.e. $300-500 category) to dramatically expand its…market share.” With two analysts from major banks reporting the existence of a cheaper iPhone on the same day, it’s hard not to take this rumor seriously now.

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