Apple customers could always count on one thing. After buying a new iPhone or iPad, they'd have about a year before a new model was released. This made it relatively easy to keep up with the company's latest-and-greatest. Apple, however, turned that on its head with this month's iPad 4. Was that just the beginning?

Reports out of (Chinese-language) Commercial Times say that Apple will soon enter trial production for the iPhone 5's sequel, the iPhone 5S. The phone would then launch in the first quarter of 2013.

The paper goes on to say that a new iPad will be released in the following quarter. Though the iPad mini isn't specifically referenced, the report cites the present model's "lower than expected display resolution." As the full-sized iPad has a terrific display, that points directly to the iPad mini.


Perhaps we'll see something like this in early 2013

The source is known to have a mixed record, so we'd take this one with many grains of salt. Several months ago, it would have sounded ludicrous. But the 4th-generation iPad's quick release makes anything possible.

There are some red flags. The report says that the rapid release cycle is due to the iPhone 5's low yield rates. Those yield rates, though, come from its anodized aluminum casing, which easily chips. "iPhone 5S" suggests upgraded internals, with the same exterior (like the iPhone 3GS and 4S). It's hard to see how that would improve yields.

Tim Cook's fingerprint?

Could this rapid release cycle mark a new strategy for the Tim Cook-era Apple? The CEO comes from an operations background. It's tempting to see him transforming the company into a well-oiled machine, churning out unnecessary hardware updates to maximize profits.

It's way too early to jump to that conclusion. But if the surprising iPad 4 is any indication, Apple customers' full year of having the latest-and-greatest may be a thing of the past.

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