The truth about the iPhone 5 and iPad 3

You can bank on the fact that the next-gen iPhone and iPad will run iOS 5 -- but not much beyond that

Every day, it seems, there's a new rumor about the "iPhone 5" or "iPad 3." Some purport to be based on information from carriers or component suppliers. Others are clearly inventions by enthusiast bloggers who have learned they can get an audience by constantly making stuff up. The Web has no memory, it seems, so the false prophets of Apple's plans get away with purveying their fiction. Even respectable publications that won't run the rumors as news instead compile "rumor roundups" to have their cake and eat it too. They're fooling only themselves about the fact they too are willing and eager to misrepresent fiction as news.

The crescendo of iPhone 5 and iPad 3 rumors is only getting more intense as the fall release of iOS 5 approaches. It's a safe bet that Apple will announce an updated iPhone at the same time, since it skipped its usual July iPhone refresh this year and hinted strongly in its earnings call last month that a new iPhone was on its way.

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For a while this winter, the rumor chatter focused on an "iPhone Nano," a smaller, cheaper iPhone to be built from older-era iPhone parts (never mind they aren't small enough), then right before the March iPad 2 release, the rumors changed to whether the next iPhone would be a major redesign or an improved version of the iPhone 4. Since spring, they've been focused mainly on when the next iPhone will ship. It's been fun, in a sick way, to watch the same bloggers and "reporters" repeatedly find obscure analysts or play with tea leaves to justify the latest rumored release date, which has bounced among August, September, and October, changing every couple weeks based on the latest "fact."

I keep waiting now for some blogger to quote analyst Alan Smithee of Motionless Consulting's assurance that the iPad 2ZG will launch on Aug. 15, sporting antigravity emitters to give it an effective weight of zero pounds and to allow its use anywhere without a surface or the need to hold it in one hand and hunt-and-tap with the other.

How Apple has encouraged the rumors
If you're thinking of buying an iPhone or iPad, you of course don't want to buy one with a new, improved version right around the corner. The problem is, when will we get to that corner? Apple has historically kept to a regular schedule on its product updates, so it was easy to identify when you were bearing near that point: iPhones and iOS in July or August, iPods in September or October, iPads in March or April, MacBooks in spring, MacBook Airs in the fall.

But Apple has begun to deviate a bit from that regularity, with the new MacBook Air released in July of this year and the next-version iPhone apparently pushed back until fall (to coincide with the release of iOS 5 and iCloud, apparently -- or maybe due to the supplier aftereffects of the Japanese earthquake this spring).

Those exceptions fuel the rumors that the iPad 3 (sometimes called the iPad Pro by the rumormongers) will be released this fall, for the holiday shopping season -- just eight months after Apple released the iPad 2. Only Apple knows for sure, but the move is so unlike Apple that I just can't credit it. Unlike most other PC and mobile device makers, Apple doesn't create products for a shelf life of a few months. If you walked into a Best Buy today to look at Android devices, for example, the models available will differ greatly from what you would see in October, even though under their skins they're basically all the same.

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