Report: Manufacturers haven’t received plans for iPhone 5 production

I’ve tried to stay away from the iPhone 5 rumors of late because they seem just so ridiculous. They range each day from the new iPhone hitting shelves in June as expected, to being delayed all the way until September, or as far as 2012. That’s basically six months or more that the iPhone 5 could come out this year — which makes these rumors less rumor and more wild speculation.

But the evidence for some kind of delay is starting to pile up a bit. According to a DigiTimes story, Taiwanese manufacturers that produces touchscreen displays for the iPhone 4 is, well, still producing them — that is, the company hasn’t received any kind of marching orders from Apple (AAPL) about when to stop and what to start making for a new generation smartphone.

The story gets a little wonky beyond that bit of information. DigiTimes cites all unnamed sources here (and often in other stories), claiming that speculation around the industry states that while the new iPhone will probably come out this year in order to fight the continuing rushing tide of devices running Google’s (GOOG) Android operating system, it could basically be any time. The story cites sources on one hand who claim that the iPhone 5 won’t be much more than a tweak of the iPhone 4’s current designs, and on the other who say it’s a totally reworked device and that component issues are causing delays.

I don’t much go out for DigiTimes’ stories of this ilk — they’re wrong about as often as they are right, and in this case the story covers every outcome possible — but it doesn’t seem unreasonable that Apple hasn’t issued a road map for starting manufacturers on the iPhone 5 just yet. We’re still only a few months into the life cycle of the iPhone 4 for all those Verizon customers who just got the privilege back in February, and the question ever since that release has been one of how the addition of the Verizon (VZ) iPhone will affect the iPhone 5’s rollout.

There’s also the fact that the iPhone 4 seems to be doing steadily well even now, and especially at Verizon. The phone continues to be a top-seller at Verizon stores, although it has seen some fresh competition from the HTC (2498.TW) Thunderbolt 4G. Given those two circumstances of adding a brand new carrier to the stable with six months left in the product cycle and strong sales, Apple may well be gambling on a later release date than it usually goes with for its new iPhone.

DigiTimes does seem right about one thing, however: It would probably be a bad call for Apple to fail to release a new iPhone this year. The Android onslaught shows no sign of slowing down, and as I mentioned with the Thunderbolt, there are definitely devices out there that are capable of digging into Apple’s market share. Verizon is pushing hard in the direction of its superfast 4G LTE data network, and there’s no iPhone currently capable of using it. Letting another six months go without finding a way to put the iPhone back in the news gives consumers plenty of time to consider alternative options, and that’s not Steve Jobs’ style.

Of course, we’re getting no help from Apple on the whole issue, and as these things go, the Internet will basically be throwing out scenarios and backing them up with rumors incessantly until the Apple CEO tells us otherwise. For my part, though, I’d be pretty surprised if Apple let the iPhone 4 go all the way until 2012 without giving its fans something to pay them for.

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