I thought Michael Nace’s outline of evidence supporting cases both for and against a June release of the sixth-generation iPhone was an excellent summary. Michael continues to be more optimistic about a World Wide Developers Conference new iPhone release than I am. I’ve pretty consistently been of a mind that it’s going to be a September or more likely October unveiling for reasons I’ve discussed in detail in blogs here since last winter.
That’s an opinion; not an advocacy position. It’s based on an accretion of evidence (albeit none of it conclusive), and 20 years of watching and analyzing Apple and its ways. My deductions could be dead wrong. I don’t have a crystal ball, Apple is as usual doing a masterful job of being inscrutable and mysterious, and as Michael has demonstrated, there is a fair bit of plausible evidence supporting a June release. I just think the contrary arguments are stronger. That said, I won’t be shocked if Tim Cook does announce a new iPhone at the WWDC, which is only two and a half weeks away so it won’t be long now before we know me way or the other.
Of course, if the new iPhone is a WWDC no-show, the debate will just get refined to a narrower time frame — mid-to-late summer, September, or October. However, if it isn’t the WWDC, I’ll be more convinced than ever that October will be the charm. Why? One of the biggest reasons is because the new iPhone, presumed to be a major redesign, is a big enough deal that I think Apple may deem its release an appropriate commemoration of the first anniversary of Steve Jobs’s death, which will also mark almost exactly a year since the iPhone 4S release.
Turning again to The WWDC for a moment, and a rumored “something big” coming soon, an iPhone sixth-gen release would certainly qualify, but not exclusively. Michael notes that his unnamed source thinks that means something more than “just” MacBooks and it’s too early for it to be the iPad mini. I agree on the latter point, but having been a consummate Apple laptop fan for more than two decades, I think the prospect of the first MacBook Pro redesign in more than three and a half years also qualifies as something plenty big.
Apple’s acquisition of the iPhone5.com domain name? Being as they wouldn’t be in complete control of the timing of that, I don’t see being four months in advance of a product release as implausibly early. However, I think it could also be just Apple being Apple and aggressively protecting its trademarks, especially since I’m increasingly doubtful that the next iPhone will be called iPhone 5 or any other number, but will follow the pattern of the New iPad and be named simply the New iPhone. Could be mistaken about that of course.
Then there’s the matter of the cutback in iPhone 4S orders from Apple’s OEM suppliers ans reported discounting. Actually, I think those factors are among the strongest arguments in favor of a new iPhone release sooner rather than later, iPhone 4S sales have doubtless peaked domestically, but the International Data Corporation (IDC)’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report released this week found that 23 percent of the 152.3 million smartphones that shipped in Q1 2012 were iPhones — a robust 88.7 percent increase year-over-year. thanks to sustained demand for the iPhone 4S following the holiday quarter, and the addition of numerous mobile operators offering the iPhone for the first time.
The Android OS posted even larger gains, with a 59 percent share representing a 145 percent gain year-over-year, but remember that Android use is scattered among many smartphone makers, most with a multiplicity of models. With the iOS, it’s just the iPhone4S and a couple of discounted older models. Even if 4S sales are slumping somewhat in Q2/12, they’re still gong to be healthy, and Apple can be serenely confident that they’ll trend sharply upward again once the new model is released, as happened last year with the October iPhone 4S release. Its propinquity with the holiday sales season makes an October release of a product like the iPhone strategically compelling.
Finally, before I go, Digitimes’ Siu Han and Steve Shen reported yesterday that according to industry sources, Sony is likely to become one of the in-cell touch panel suppliers for the next-generation iPhone, which Han and Shen say they expect to be launched in September or October, The article also says LG Display, Toshiba Mobile Display (TMD) and Sharp have been previously tapped as suppliers of in-cell touch panels for the new iPhone, with LG Display having achieved a yield rate to 70-80%, and TMD expected to enter mass production as scheduled, but Sharp having encountered problems or delays in bringing its yield rate up to an acceptable level, creating an opportunity for Sony to join enter the supply chain, and to begin volume production of in-cell touch panels for the new iPhone at the end of May. If that report is anywhere near close to being accurate, readiness for a new iPhone release in just 2 1/2 weeks seems highly unlikely.