A 4G-equipped version of Apple's next-generation phone should be available by the late summer or early fall, says an analyst with RBC.
Another analyst is eyeing a September or October debut for the next iPhone.
Picking up on the same launch time frame as the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 would likely be here before or by October, according to RBC analyst Amit Daryanani. Releasing an investor report today, Daryanani added that the new iPhone should come with the latest 4G/LTE technology and offer a redesign over last year's model.
"Since the launch of the original iPhone, Apple has updated the product annually (eg. iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4S) and has redesigned the phone every ~2 years (eg. iPhone 3G and iPhone 4)," the analyst wrote. "In our view, consumers are becoming aware of the product cycle and we believe this should cause increased seasonality in the product as consumers await updated and fully remade iPhones."
The next iPhone will likely continue the tradition of scoring huge sales for Apple. Since the original version was released in 2007, the iPhone has grown to account for more than 40 percent of Apple's total revenue, according to Daryanani. Gross margins on the iPhone are the highest among all of the company's product categories, also ringing in at more than 40 percent.
And Apple still has room to grow. Its share of the overall mobile phone market was only 7.9 percent for the first quarter, according to Gartner. Daryanani believes Apple will continue to grab market share from its rival over the next few years if it keeps innovating and holding onto its "loyal subscriber base."
A focus on international markets such as China and the launch of smartphones at different prices points will also ramp up adoption of the iPhone and increase Apple's market share.
Assuming an October launch date, the iPhone 5's sales will kick in during the December 2012 and March 2013 quarters. The new phone should contribute higher unit sales over those of the iPhone 4S since "consumers have historically been attracted to the new design concepts created by Apple," the analyst added.
Apple holds a tight grip on the market. But there's always Android with its higher share of smartphone sales and Samsung with its latest and greatest phone nipping away at the iPhone.
"In our view, the iPhone represents a seamlessly synced enterprise and consumer product that should continue to gain market share in the near- and long-term," Daryanani said. "If a superior smartphone arrives that emulates the iPhone experience at a lower price point and begins taking share away from Apple, our positive view on the company would likely come under scrutiny."