An article on The Guardian website has a carrier source claiming the iPhone5 is with them for internal testing, and the author, Charles Arthur, claims this points to a September release as backed by The China Times, not later. If true then the carriers will only likely be approving the changes that affect them, primarily the ‘wire free activation’ which will enable iPhone5’s to be activated over 3G, and so this stage shouldn’t take long.
My carrier sources tell me that the boxes in which the new iPhone hardware is encased have been transported to carriers for testing. This is an important step in the release cycle for any phone. As I pointed out the other week, the release of the Windows Phone “Mango” code to developers means that handset makers can start developing their versions, which then means that they can get the phones moving down the process towards release. But WP “Mango” phones aren’t expected until October at the earliest.
The next iPhones go for their testing inside locked and sealed boxes so that the carriers can carry out checks on their network compatibility in their labs. It’s very high security, as you could guess; my understanding is that barely anyone inside the carriers gets to open those boxes, and even when they do the hardware is encased in a dummy body which means there’s no clue to what the actual phone will do. This, by the way, is what led to “Antennagate“: there simply hadn’t been enough people outside Apple who had tried the iPhone 4 at length in its real form to discover the problems with its reception.