Apple(s AAPL) is reportedly planning to start production on the next generation of the iPhone sometime in the second quarter of 2013, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. That means production could start anytime from today through the end of June. Apple has made a new iPhone every year since 2007, so the start of production of a new model isn’t a surprise. However, the timing would suggest a launch of the latest iPhone some time this summer — less than a year after the iPhone 5 arrived.
At the same time, Apple continues to work with its manufacturing partners in Asia on a less expensive iPhone that could be launched as soon as the second half of this year, these people said. The four-inch device will likely use a different casing from the higher-end iPhone. Apple has been working on different color shells for the phone but its plans remain unclear.
Summer iPhone launches were tradition from the very first iPhone model launched in 2007 through the iPhone 4 in 2010. But for the past two releases Apple has launched its most important product in the fall, which has resulted in gigantic iPhone sales coinciding with the traditional holiday shopping period.
Should this device does launch in the summer, it still won’t be clear for quite a while after if Apple is simply returning to its former annual mid-year release schedule for the iPhone, or if it’s moving toward a release pattern like what we saw with the iPad in 2012: a new iPad 3 model in March and a new iPad 4 in October.
However, if two devices do arrive this year, we could be looking at a strategy that we haven’t seen yet from Apple: multiple new iPhones arriving during the same year period and in different price categories.