iMore has learned that Apple is planning to debut the new iPhone at a special event on Wednesday, September 12, 2012, with the release date to follow 9 days later on Friday, September 21. This information comes from sources who have proven accurate in the past.
The iPad mini will be announced at the same September 12 event, as will the new iPod nano. We haven't heard a release date for the iPad mini yet, but it could be the same as the iPhone 5. It seems likely the new iPod touch will make an appearance on September 12 as well, though we haven't heard any specific information about that yet either.
Last year, the iPhone 4S was announced on Tuesday, October 4, 2011, and released 10 days later on October 14. The event included minor updates to the iPod line, notably a white iPod touch 4. This year, the iPad 3 was announced on Wednesday, March 7, 2012, and released 9 days later on March 16. The event included a 1080p Apple TV.
Back in March, we heard Apple was targeting an October release window for the iPhone 5,1, much like last year's iPhone 4,1 (iPhone 4S). Recently, however, several reports have suggested Apple would be ready to go as early as September. Last week, App4Phone.fr, citing Chinese manufacturing sources, reported the September 21 release date.
Unlike last year, when some 16 months separated the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4, a September 21 schedule would put the iPhone 5 launch at just over 11 months after the iPhone 4S.
The longer schedule last year allowed Apple to re-position the iPhone as the new, big fall product release. It took the spotlight from the iPod family that previously ruled the holiday quarter, but has waned in recent years. It also padded the time between the Verizon iPhone 4 launch, which only occurred in February of 2011, and gave four extra months for Apple to work on iOS 5, which included major new features like iCloud, Notification Center, iMessage, and Siri.
iOS 6, which was announced during Apple's WWDC 2012 keynote on June 11 and includes a new, Google-free Maps app, and Passbook, should get a final presentation during the September 12 event as well, and if Apple sticks to previous patterns, a release sometime around Wednesday, September 19.
Apple typically shows off extra, hardware-specific iOS features at new iPhone events as well. For the last few years, Apple SVP of Marketing, Phil Schiller, has demonstrated advanced camera and video recording, and Apple SVP of iOS, Scott Forstall, has demonstrated Voice Control, FaceTime, and Siri. For now, we have only educated guesses (see the conclusion) as to what else might be coming to iOS this year.
As for hardware, we're still hearing the iPad mini will be exactly like the 9.7-inch iPad, only scaled down to 7.x-inches. We originally heard Apple had a few iPhone 5 prototypes, including 3.5-inch and 4-inch versions, but recent reports and parts leaks make it look like the 4-inch, 16:9 screen version is what Apple's going with. We've also consistently heard all new iOS devices will have the new, smaller Dock connector iMore learned about back in February, which along with the nano-SIM and rumored in-cell display should leave lots of room for the LTE radio we learned about earlier in the year, and the bigger battery to go along with it.
If these announcement and release dates prove accurate, we should find out in only 6 short weeks.
Update: John Paczkowski of the Wall Street Journal's AllThingsD is now reporting the same September 12, 2012 for the Apple event.
Update 2: Jim Dalrymple of The Loop has added his trademark "yep".
Update 3: The Verge is now reporting the September 12, 2012 date as well.