updated 01:35 pm EDT, Sat September 24, 2011
Apple hints iOS 5 October 10, iPhone 5 Oct 14
(Update: UK too) Apple may have solidified its release timing for both iOS 5 and the iPhone 5 after details of retail staff vacations solidified Apple's plans. An initial schedule gleaned by AppleInsider would segment off October 9 through 12. Combined with AppleCare staff expecting a large number of iOS help requests on October 10, it's believed this period would represent a transition over to iOS 5 and a need to both update store demo units as well as educate customers.
A second but shorter block, October 14 through 15, is more likely to accommodate the iPhone 5 release and the day afterwards. Apple regularly demands all hands on deck for iPhone launches to keep store traffic moving.
With few exceptions, Apple has always had an iOS update available within a few days of hardware, in part to reduce the pressure on its servers and its support teams.
Apple is rumored to be holding an October 4 event that would be consistent with the schedule, giving it over a week to prepare staff and carriers as well as to coordinate the pre-release reviews that are always published the Wednesday evening before the release. Sprint has blacked out similar dates in a sign that Apple gave it a general timeframe for its first-ever iPhone.
Update: UK staff have also been told to forego vacations, this time in the first half of October.