Editors' Note: Turns out our guess was pretty good. Three months after this article was posted, Apple set a product event for Sept. 14. It's a pretty safe bet that the iPhone 13 will be on the agenda.
The iPhone 13 pieces are starting to fall into place. Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference is a little more than a week away, and it will bring us our first good look at iOS 15. With that iPhone software update set to arrive in the fall along with the iPhone 13, get ready to hear the same question being asked with increasing frequency over the next few months: When is the iPhone 13 coming out?
And the short answer is, we don't know. Apple keeps a pretty tight lid on the whens and hows of its product releases, keeping launch details under wraps until the last possible moment. So anyone who tells you when the iPhone 13 is coming out is really just guessing at this point.
- Find the best iPhones available right now
- How the iPhone 13 can beat the Galaxy S21
- Plus: iPhone 13 rumored A15 Bionic benchmarks blow away all Android phones
The good news, though, is that we can guess, too. And we can base that guess on years of watching just how exactly Apple has handled phone launches.
Apple's fairly predictable approach to iPhone releases was upended last year by the coronavirus pandemic, which not only forced Apple to push back the iPhone 12 launch event, but to roll out the different models in stages. Rumors suggest that Apple is going back to its regular approach for the iPhone 13 launch, which means an early fall release and all the different models appearing at once. At least, that's the plan for now.
Here's a closer look at when we think the iPhone 13 is going to ship based on Apple's past approach to its new phones.
iPhone 13 launch: Is everything on track?
Considering how Apple's iPhone 12 plans were somewhat upended by the coronavirus pandemic last year, it's worth checking the rumor mill for how the iPhone 13 is proceeding this year. That's especially true in light of the global chip shortage that's heavily impacted the consumer electronics industry.
You're likely aware of how chip shortages have caused products like the PS5 and Xbox Series X gaming consoles to go in and out of stock, but the problems with chips don't end with things that are currently on sale. It's also impacting company pipelines — Samsung, for example, is said to be cancelling a new Galaxy Note phablet this year in large part because of a shortage of chips.
Apple may not emerge unscathed from the shortage; reportedly, the iPad and iMac lineups could be hit by delays. But the iPhone 13 seems like it's on track. A new report says that the A15 Bionic chips that are powering the new iPhone 13 have just entered production. It's a situation that bears monitoring, but for now, we haven't heard anything that suggests the iPhone 13 won't arrive during Apple's usual fall window for phone launches.
iPhone 13 release date: Past iPhone launches
To get a better sense of how Apple handles iPhone launches, it helps to go back in time and review when Apple announced its new phones, along with when those phones actually hit the market. Here's Apple's iPhone release schedule dating back seven years.
|Phone||Announce date||Launch date|
|iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro||October 13, 2020||October 23, 2020|
|iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro Max||October 13, 2020||November 13, 2020|
|iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max||September 10. 2019||September 20, 2019|
|iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max||September 12, 2018||September 21, 2018|
|iPhone XR||September 12, 2018||October 26, 2018|
|iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus||September 12, 2017||September 22, 2017|
|iPhone X||September 12, 2017||November 3, 2017|
|iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus||September 7, 2016||September 16, 201\6|
|iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus||September 9, 2015||September 25, 2015|
|iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus||September 9, 2014||September 19, 2014|
A few things become apparent looking at that chart. Apart from last year's coronavirus-enforced delay, Apple likes to announce its phones in September. In fact, before last year, the last time Apple didn't unveil a new iPhone in September was 2011 when the iPhone 4s debuted on Oct. 4. A September announcement gives Apple time enough to build up both buzz and inventory in advance of the holiday shopping season.
The other thing you might notice is that generally, Apple prefers to ship all its iPhone models in one fell swoop. That's not happened as much in recent years — besides last year's staggered launches, the iPhone XR in 2018 and iPhone X in 2017 shipped at later times than their counterparts. But, unless there's production line issues, Apple prefers to do what it did in 2019 when all three iPhone 11 models hit stores at the same time.
iPhone 13 release date: When we think it will happen
Pulling all this data together, you can't help but reach a few conclusions.
- Apple tends to hold its fall iPhone launch events within the first two weeks of September.
- Apple launch events usually happen on a Tuesday, except in years where the event is the same week as Labor Day. That can push back the launch event to a Wednesday, as it did in 2015.
- iPhones generally, though not always, ship 10 days after Apple's introductory event.
So if we were to take a guess about this year's event, we'd expect Apple to unveil the iPhone 13 on either the week of September 5 or the week of September 12. There are some potential scheduling conflicts during the week of Sept. 6 — Labor Day falls on that Monday and Rosh Hashanah is the very next day. Rather than work around those events, you'd expect Apple to settle on the week of Sept. 12, with Tuesday, Sept. 14 as the most likely day for Apple to hold an iPhone 13 event.
If that's the case and if Apple sticks to its usual schedule of launching a new iPhone 10 days after the phone's unveiling, we'd expect iPhone pre-orders to start around Sept. 17, with the iPhone 13 release date being Sept. 24. All bets are off if Apple decides to release the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13 Pro models at different times.
iPhone 13 release date: When we'll find out
As we get deeper into summer, expect more concrete rumors to emerge about when the iPhone 13 will arrive. Pay attention in particular to leaks emanating from wireless carriers, who need to plan for big fall phone launches and invariably let those details trickle out. Apple's ever-talkative supply chain is also a good source of rumors for any upcoming hardware launches.
Until more details emerge, though, feel free to draw a circle around that Sept. 14 date for the iPhone 13's unveiling. Just be sure to draw that circle in pencil for now.