A new analyst report making the rounds this morning asserts that Apple's putting the finishing touches on iOS 5, and plans to send it to its device assemblers as soon as next week.
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of Concord Securities told AppleInsider and MacRumors today that Apple should be delivering the golden master version of iOS 5 between September 23 and 30. That software will then be imaged onto new devices that ship out to stores.
The timing is of special note given expectations of a new iPhone and iPod Touch in the coming weeks. Kuo suggests it will take 10 to 12 days for shipping of new iPhones and iPod Touch units with the upgraded software, placing a higher possibility that those units won't be available until the second week of October.
Apple released the latest beta version of its iOS 5 system software to developers at the tail end of August, the seventh iteration since taking the wraps off the software at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June. So far, Apple has gone through a lengthier test process than usual, releasing a new beta of the software every few weeks ahead of the golden master, which represents the version the public gets:
iOS 5 beta 1
iOS 5 beta 2
iOS 5 beta 3
iOS 5 beta 4
iOS 5 beta 5
iOS 5 beta 6
iOS 5 beta 7
Apple has said it will release iOS 5 to users as a free update this fall. The new version of iOS brings an overhaul of the notifications system, alongside a new messaging platform called iMessage that lets iOS users text and chat with one another free of charge. The software is also deeply tied to Apple's upcoming iCloud service, which will be used to ferry photos, applications, and settings back and forth between iOS devices, as well as serve as a free backup solution.
iPhone "4S" revived
Kuo also puts the kibosh on rumors of there being two iPhone models, instead suggesting that Apple intends to offer a souped-up version of the iPhone 4 that has the same general form factor of the iPhone 4, including screen size and building materials, but with an improved camera and tweaked antenna band.
That assertion puts into question a handful of third-party cases that have emerged in the last few weeks, suggesting that Apple was making a device with a slightly larger screen, and a thinner form factor.
Kuo's track record on recent product releases is mixed. In July, Kuo incorrectly claimed that Apple would be moving to 4GB of RAM across its MacBook Air line, as well as losing the 64GB storage option, moving to 127GB and 256GB instead, while correctly noting that those drives would remain user-replaceable. Kuo also correctly predicted the release timeline of the white iPhone 4 and the planned discontinuation of Apple's white polycarbonate MacBook.