When Does The New iPhone Come Out?

Tim Cook shows off the new iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch during an Apple special event
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If you don't already have a smartphone, you may have your eye on an iPhone for your next phone. And, if you've got an iPhone, you're probably already planning your upgrade to the next model. Either way, you want to make the smart choice and get the latest and greatest version. So the question is: When does the new iPhone come out?

Figuring out when the new iPhone comes out isn't an exact science—at least not until Apple makes an announcement of a release date.

But, based on history, you can make an educated guess.

Most likely, new iPhone models will come out in September every year (with one possible exception, as we'll see).

We can say this based on the release dates of previous iPhones:

iPhone 7 series: Sept. 16, 2016iPhone 4S: Oct. 14, 2011
iPhone SE: March 31, 2016iPhone 4: June 24, 2010
iPhone 6S series: Sept. 25, 2015iPhone 3GS: June 19, 2009
iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus: Sept. 19, 2014iPhone 3G: July 2008
iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C: Sept. 20, 2013iPhone: June 2007
iPhone 5: Sept. 21, 2012 

As you can see, the first four iPhones were released in June or July. That changed with the release of the iPhone 4S. This change seems to be due to the new iPad models often being released in March or April of each year and Apple not wanting to release its flagship products so close together.

While it was unclear at that time whether the fall release of the iPhone 4S was a one-time instance, with the September release of the iPhone 5, it seems likely that all new iPhone models will now be released in the fall.

The Exception to the Fall Release Schedule: The iPhone SE

The fall release schedule for new iPhones has held true for 5 years, but the March 31, 2016, release of the iPhone SE throws that pattern into doubt. It will likely be at least a year—maybe longer—before Apple releases a successor to the SE, so it will take that long to find out whether we should always expect a new iPhone in March now or if the SE and its replacements will join the fall upgrade cycle as well.

For now, be aware that there could be a second iPhone release added to the calendar each year, giving you an option to get a new model in both March and September. But until a second SE model is released and establishes a pattern, don't make any definite plans for a March iPhone.

When Should You Upgrade?

The other important question is whether you should wait for the release of a new iPhone model before you upgrade.

If you're considering upgrading anytime in the first half of a year, I recommend waiting (at least until we know more about whether the iPhone SE is going to be released every March or moved to the fall with the other models).

Since we can guess with some confidence that the new iPhone will come out in September or October of each year, it makes sense to wait for the early fall if you're planning to upgrade. After all, why buy a phone that won't be the latest and greatest in just a couple months if you could get the newest thing by waiting?

Your decision will be driven by whether your current phone can last that long—probably not if it's broken or malfunctioning, for instance—but if you can wait until fall, do so. And then you can enjoy the new iPhone.

What Happens to Older Models?

While everyone likes to get the latest and greatest, it's worth paying attention to what happens to older models when Apple releases new ones.

In most cases, last year's top-of-the-line model sticks around at a lower price.

For example, when Apple introduced the iPhone 7 series, it discontinued the 6 series, but still offered the 6S and SE, with the price of the 6S being cut by $100 per model. So, if you're ready to upgrade but also looking for a deal, it can be a good idea to wait until Apple releases a new model and then snap up last year's best model for a lower price.