The latest predictions indicate that Apple plans to release a new and improved iPhone5 in August, likely with an iPhone 5S moniker. While these predictions clearly fall into the speculative category and are only rumors, they make good sense and fit nicely into Apple's long established pattern of enjoying speculation while saying little or nothing about upcoming product introductions.

The most recent rumors stem from discussion earlier this month on a site focused on Apple products. The site known as iMore credits "sources familiar with the plans" as saying an iPhone 5S will be released in August, while new versions of the iPad and iPad mini could be released as soon as next month (April).

Logical Timing

Neither development would be surprising since they're roughly following Apple's historic timing of product releases.

Apple introduced the iPad mini last October, in an apparent reaction to competition from smaller tablet form factors, especially Samsung's smaller Galaxy Tab.

The iPhone 5 was released a month earlier, after the early summer cycle was interrupted in 2011 by the CDMA version of the iPhone 4 for Verizon Wireless (January) and later the iPhone 4S (October).

The iMore report predicts the external design of the 5S will be the same as the iPhone 5, but with a faster processor and better camera -- again, pretty safe bets since that was also the case with the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4S.

Mounting Pressure

But these days, the pressure is on Apple to keep up the momentum and keep the iPhone on top of the smartphone heap, especially during the non-holiday sales periods. The first post-Steve Jobs iPhone fell short of some Wall Street estimates, yet is still a huge seller.

At the same time, the iPhone's biggest rival, Samsung's Galaxy S devices, are gaining momentum, with the fourth edition just recently launched. That's less than a year since the release of the Galaxy S III.

"Apple's competition coming from Samsung and others is way beyond the dual-core, tiny 4-inch HD display, hundreds of apps and annual refresh cycles," said analyst Neil Shah of Strategy Analytics.

Picking Up the Pace

"This has forced Apple to consider a semi-annual product refresh to catch up with Samsung," Shah said.

Competition is "challenging the status quo in the premium smartphone segment, especially during Q2 and Q3, with comparatively advanced launches, such as the Samsung Galaxy S III last year and the Galaxy S IV this year."

Shah expects that the next refresh for the iPhone 5 will add "the missing pieces of the puzzle" that rivals already feature, such as a quad-core CPU and the ability to use near-field communications (NFC) for file transfers and payments.

Indeed, time will tell what Apple has in store next for the iPhone, and in the meantime, we can expect the rumor mill to keep on turning.