This week the China Economic News Service (CENS) said Taiwan-based component suppliers told them that Apple may roll out iPhone 5 mobile phone as early as August, which would be earlier than what the mainstream analyst consensus has been recently. The rationale for a midsummer launch would be to tap into the back-to-school market in the U.S., what with the European sovereign debt crisis worsening and threatening to throw cold water on consumer electronics sales in the third quarter and Microsoft’s Windows 8 release looming, CENS says industry insiders are telling them that the iPhone 5 supply chain for will begin to activate in July in preparation for shipping to begin in August, and that Apple is calling on suppliers to move production startup forward.
CENS’ Philip Liu also reports that a thinner form factor iPhone 5 will incorporate an in-cell touch panel, a stronger Siri function, a larger (rumored 16:9 aspect ratio 4-inch panel with a 1,136 x 640 resolution) display, and major changes in the design for the dock connector (presumably a rumored new, smaller, proprietary 19-pin chipped cable connector which may or may not support Micro USB), 4G LTE communications.
However, Digitimes’ Ninelu Tu and Joseph Tsai, also Taiwan based, dispute the CENS report, saying their sources in the upstream supply chain are telling them they have not noticed any significant increases in iPhone component supply activity for July.
Tu and Tsai’s sources also point out that if Apple were aiming to launch the new iPhone by the end of August, it would likely want to stage an announcement in early August, meaning that related component shipments would have to start picking up in July in order to meet the schedule, but that so far at least, they’ve not yet seen any significant increase in Apple iPhone component orders for July, although they report that some players believe Apple is now planning to announce the new iPhone at the end of August, which would mean shipping would start in September. The latter would be in line with the earliest consumer release that’s been projected in mainstream reportage. Tu and Tsai do allow that with order visibilities are not very clear, there is still the possibility that Apple could shift orders to July.
Battery Quality Issues Could Derail Early Release Plans
There’s another potential complicating factor that might thwart any plan for moving forward the iPhone 5 release. Appleinsider‘s Neil Hughes reports that one of Apple’s key suppliers may experiencing difficulty in providing batteries for the next iPhone that meet standards, according to a new rumor based on an article at the Chinese news website Sina.com and cited by Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White In a note to investors that was shared with AppleInsider on Thursday. Hughes says White’s report suggests that only 30 percent of battery production volume achieved so far meets Apple’s standards.
The unnamed battery vendor is reportedly working to solve the problem as development of Apple’s next iPhone ramps up ahead of an anticipated release later this year. Consequently, while White thinks rumors that Apple might want to launch its next iPhone as soon as the end of August my have some validity, he is still of a mind that Apple will launch the sixth-generation iPhone in September, and that “If there is a battery challenge, we trust that Apple will be able to figure it out in time for a September launch.” White wrote.
However, once the suppliers do get their iPhone 5 component production ducks in a row, Nova Mining Corp. is projecting that the release of a new iPhone 5, possibly an Apple TV, and continued strong iPad sales, a spike in the price of Lithium, a key raw material in mobile device battery production, is looming, “Given what we have seen the iPad sales boom do to the Lithium market, we believe that further releases of revolutionary products from Apple will exponentially escalate lithium prices and place even more critical demand on the valuable mineral that is the main ingredient for long-life batteries,” said Nova Mining President James Dilger in a release this week. “I feel we are positioning Nova Mining to reap great rewards from these influences on the lithium market.”
Last week, Nova Mining Corp executed a Letter of Intent with Mongolian National Mining Consultants Limited (MNMC) for the exclusive right to purchase 100% of the Lithium produced from three large licensed MNMC mining properties at a discount to market price. MNMC is a Hong Kong company, with its principal business operations in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The impact this may have on mobile device pricing remains to be seen.