Apple to announce Q3 2012 earnings July 24 at 5 p.m. ET by Philip Elmer-DeWitt @FortuneMagazine July 2, 2012, 11:13 PM EST E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons FORTUNE — Following a pattern that has become familiar to hard-core Apple AAPL watchers, the company announced today that it has scheduled its earnings call for the third fiscal quarter of 2012 on the first Tuesday three weeks after the last Saturday of the quarter, which ended June 30. Got that? If so, you should already know that the results will hit the business wires about half an hour after the markets close on July 24, and that the call with analysts will begin at 5 p.m. Eastern (2 p.m. Pacific.) You can tune in to the live audio webcast here. We’ve already started gathering analysts’ estimates for our quarterly Earnings Smackdown between what we used to call the professionals and the bloggers. (Because some of the latter have started to turn pro — one has launched a hedge fund, others have become consultants — they’re more accurately described now as “independents.”) Our numbers are preliminary, but as usual the indies are more bullish than the pros, looking for earnings on average about $5 billion higher than the Street’s consensus. Both groups expect iPad sales to easily beat last quarter’s, and iPhone unit sales to decline somewhat. Apple is widely expected to introduce a new iPhone next fall, and if the past is any guide, some would-be customers will be holding out for the new model. If you were looking to make a killing by buying Apple shares in advance of the earnings results, you may already be too late. According to a study of the stock’s pre-earnings movements over the last 13 quarters posted by aapltrader99‘s Randy Fosler, the best time to buy the stock is in the middle of the month before the results are announced. See here.