Apple is still declining to reveal the release date for the iPhone 6, its upcoming next generation flagship smartphone, even as details continue to leak out left and right. But rumors aside, Apple still faces a number of tasks before it can get the new device in the hands of consumers. From its iOS 8 system software to its finalized feature set to the name it’ll end up hitting the market with (think “iPhone Air”), here are six obstacles Apple must clear before it can set the iPhone 6 release date:
1. Get iOS 8 in the wild: Apple will take the first steps in this direction by publicly unveiling the iPhone 6 system software in about two weeks at its developer conference.
2. Lock down the hardware: From the various Jonathan Ive-crafted prototypes sitting around in the bowels of Apple’s most secret laboratories, CEO Tim Cook must decide which piece of hardware will officially become the iPhone 6. That likely includes all-new styling to finally move past the design motif used on four consecutive iPhone generations, a larger screen, a faster A8 microprocessor, and at least one easily marketable feature along the lines of Siri.
3. Incorporate Beats by Dre: Apple isn’t spending all this money to buy out Beats on a mere whim. Look for the Beats by Dre deal to have its fingerprints all over the iPhone 6, from the built in speakers to the earbuds it’s bundled with. But how much Beats tech can Apple incorporate into the iPhone 6 by its release date? That’s the $3.2 billion question.
4. Pick a name: Odd as it sounds, there’s a strong chance the iPhone 6 won’t be called iPhone 6. Apple deviated from its longstanding iPhone naming policy when it released the iPhone 5C, and that alone suggests Apple may be looking to change things up. But with the latest iPad model arriving with the name iPad Air instead of iPad 5, it’s a clear cut sign that Apple believes “Air” is a powerful marketing term for its mobile products, particularly when they get thinner and lighter, as the next iPhone is expected to. So Apple must decide whether its next iPhone flagship model is called iPhone 6 or iPhone Air.
5. Finalize manufacturing: Apple long used Foxconn exclusively as its iPhone factory, but that partnership isn’t as strong as it once was, and Apple has been sending some of its business to Pegatron instead. Apple must now decide which factory gets its iPhone 6 business before putting the new device into production.
6. Stage the media event: Apple generally likes to unveil its major new products at its own media events, eschewing the tech conferences it previously used as launching points. Apple will have to send out press invites at least a week before the iPhone 6 media event. And once the iPhone 6 has been unveiled, it’ll need at least another week of lead time before holding the actual iPhone 6 release date in retail stores.