Quick Timeline: Apple’s iOS Events, Or, Predicting When iOS 5 Will Hit

Now that four years have passed since the announcement of the first iPhone, Apple has had plenty of time to fine-tune its strategies for releasing new iPhone hardware—and the updated iOS software to support it. Each year, beginning with 2008’s iPhone Software Roadmap event, the time period between the announcement of a new OS version and its release has shortened, as the iOS roadmap events have been held later each year, and the actual iOS release has been closely tied to the release of a new iPhone model.

iPhone OS 2.0: Event Announced Feb. 27, 2008 / Event Held March 6, 2008 / Released July 11, 2008
iPhone OS 3.0: Event Announced March 12, 2009 / Event Held March 17, 2009 / Released June 17, 2009
iPhone OS/iOS 4.0: Event Announced April 5, 2010 / Event Held April 8, 2010 / Released June 21, 2010

Notably, Apple typically uses the events to preview the most important new software features of each release, then waits until its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) to announce a formal release date, as well as any additional new software features required for new iPhone hardware. WWDC also brings the first official confirmation of release dates for the new iPhone model that debuts at the event.

It’s interesting that the dates for Apple’s WWDC conference have barely changed over the past three years, even though Apple has waited longer and longer to announce the WWDC dates.

WWDC 2008: Announced March 13, 2008 / Held June 9-13, 2008 (Monday – Friday)
WWDC 2009: Announced March 26, 2009 / Held June 8-12, 2009 (Monday – Friday)
WWDC 2010: Announced April 28, 2010 / Held June 7-11, 2010 (Monday – Friday)

Recent reports, citing the event calendar for San Francisco’s Moscone West—the traditional venue for WWDC—suggest that this year’s event will be held on June 5-9. Those dates, however, run from Sunday to Thursday, and as Apple has held its keynote address on Monday—the first day of the event—each of the past three years, it seems more likely that the event will be held on June 6-10, with Sunday the 5th possibly reserved for setup and preparation work.

That brings us back to the topic of this year’s iOS event, at which Apple will presumably preview iOS 5. Apple may have only given three days warning for last year’s event, but it was rare in that the original iPad had launched only two days prior, and Apple likely didn’t want to distract from iPad coverage by announcing the event prior to the new tablet’s launch.

In any case, Apple has to allow enough time between the iOS event and the software’s launch to allow third-party developers to work with the new software in beta form, preparing applications to take advantage of the new features and update their existing apps for compatibility with the changed software.

Given the fact that WWDC 2011 will likely be held during the first full week of June, as it has the last three years, it appears as though we’re quickly approaching the announcement of Apple’s iOS 5 event. The company could announce it as soon as this week and hold it as soon as the next week—three or five days’ notice might be all we get. But with the company gearing up for a slew of international iPad releases this Friday, it seems more likely that Apple will announce an iOS 5 event sometime next week, with the event itself being held the week of April 4-8, quite possibly on the 6th or 7th. A mid-June release of iOS 5 software, ever so slightly predating the release of iPhone 5, seems likely as well.