Apple will send the "golden master" of its upcoming iOS mobile operating system to its iPhone and iPod Touch manufacturing partners sometime in late September, according to the Apple-centric blog MacRumors.
The blog is drawing its information from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who apparently threw some cold water on reports of an overhauled iPhone in the works. "His sources point to the -N94' iPhone that has been popularly referred to as the -iPhone 4S' as the sole new iPhone model set to ship," read the Sept. 12 posting, "with Apple planning for 30 million units through the end of the year."
Those devices will allegedly feature 512MB of RAM, a 3.5-inch display, and front-and-back glass design.
As pointed out by numerous online publications such as Business Insider, a "golden master" iOS sent between Sept. 23 and Sept. 30 means, at least in theory, that finished devices will appear in the mid-October timeframe.
If verified, Kuo's prediction of a new iPhone without major upgrades would represent a major departure from previous rumor, which suggested Apple would issue a next-generation device with a redesigned body and faster processor. That scuttlebutt also suggested higher-end hardware, including an 8-megapixel camera.
Some analysts have theorized that Apple intends to release a line of low-cost iPhones in addition to this premium "iPhone 5," with an eye toward combating the number of cheap Google Android smartphones on the market. These cheaper devices would largely mirror the iPhone 4's existing aesthetic. Kuo's prediction seems a tweak on this theory.
Despite its significant market share, the iPhone faces competition from a number of directions, including Samsung's Galaxy S II smartphone, RIM's updated BlackBerry devices and Microsoft with its revamped Windows Phone line. Those are all expected to arrive on the market roughly at the time Apple updates the iPhone, setting up this fall and winter as a smartphone battle royale.
That multiplayer brawl has bled over into the courts, where Apple is engaged in a number of patent-infringement cases. The company has filed intellectual-property lawsuits against Samsung, HTC and Motorola.
To top everything off, Apple is also undergoing a seismic transition with the resignation of longtime CEO Steve Jobs, who handed the reins to former COO Tim Cook. At this point, analysts generally view the disruption from the transition as minimal, at least when it comes to the product pipeline. Rumors also suggest Apple will release the next iPad sometime early next year.