NEWS ANALYSIS: Market analysts are predicting vast numbers of iPhone 5 handsets will be in Apple's inventory for its product launch. Apple is going to need a big launch of an iPhone that has been significantly updated to fend off the rising competition.
The latest predictions are that Apple's Sept. 12
launch of the iPhone 5 will be the biggest in history, at least according to Peter
from Jefferies research. The firm is predicting that Apple will have
about 15 million iPhone 5 devices in inventory by mid-September, enough to satisfy
at least the initial demand.
The company also noted that more than 600 million
smartphone users will be coming out of their contracts by the end of 2013 and
that a generous share of those will want iPhones.
There is almost certainly pent-up demand for the new
iPhone. In fact, the advent
of the iPhone is being blamed for a fall in smartphone sales
in the second
quarter of 2012. According to a Gartner study
smartphone sales globally were off 2.3 percent during that quarter. While the
weak European and Asian economy likely played a part in that slump, Gartner
said that users were also postponing upgrades so they could buy the new iPhone
5 when it comes out.
In fact, Apple badly needs the iPhone 5 to sell like
hotcakes. Right now the Samsung Galaxy S 3 is eating Apple's lunch and that's
become a significant problem for Apple as iPhone sales slow. Samsung is using
the lull to push its Android phones.
But the only way for Apple to sell as many iPhone 5
devices as it hopes to is to make it really compelling, and that means really
refreshing the iPhone, not just coming out with yet another minor update as has
been the case in the past. Let's face it, all that Apple has done so far during
the life of the iPhone is release small incremental upgrades. Last year's
iPhone 4S wasn't all that different from the previous iPhone 4, for example.
The lack of a major step forward is going to be a problem
for Apple unless the iPhone 5 has the technology and ease of use of its Android
and Windows competitors. The screen size is a good example. The iPhone 4S has a
screen that has a very high resolution display, but it's smaller than the
Android phones with which it competes. It's smaller than the screen on the latest
Nokia Windows Phone devices.
Fortunately, it appears that Apple has tried to remedy
this problem by adopting a screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is the same
shape as the screen on your HDTV or on your widescreen laptop. But will it be
larger in any dimension other than width? That's not clear.
Larger screens are a fact of life. As phones are designed
to consume more and more Web content, display videos, act as e-readers and
otherwise perform more screen-intensive tasks, most people need (or at least
want) a larger screen. So far, Apple hasn't delivered.
Likewise, Apple needs to support current communications
technology. That means supporting HSPA+ at high speeds, having WiFi
connectivity at least as good as phones from Samsung and most of all,
supporting LTE. As
carriers abandon 2G
, the iPhone needs to be fully functional on 3G and 4G,
with 4G rapidly becoming a must.
Of course, the necessity to support LTE helps explain why
the iPhone 5 will be a larger device than the iPhone 4S. It needs room for the
LTE radios and for the additional antennas. Of course, there needs to be a way
to provide enough power to run a larger Retina display as well as the LTE
radios through a typical work day. That means larger batteries.
So that's what to expect when Tim Cook rolls out the
iPhone 5 (assuming they call it that, and not something dumb like the "New
iPhone.") You'll see a larger phone with a bigger, clearer screen, support for
LTE and some other new features. It's possible, for example that the new iPhone
will have a fingerprint
built into the Home button, something that will help secure the new
Passbook app where security would be a must. Such a feature would also help
combat a rising form of crime in which people are being killed for their iPhones.
Yes, that's correct. People have been brutally murdered
by crooks who want their iPhones in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and
London. Perhaps if the crooks knew that the phone couldn't be used afterwards,
the temptation to steal iPhones would be reduced.
You may also find that when the iPhone 5 is released that
Apple abandons its carrier-specific deals. Right now this keeping many carries,
such as T-Mobile in the U.S., from selling iPhones to their customers. The only
way around this is to buy an unlocked iPhone that works on GSM networks. If
your CDMA carrier doesn't sell iPhones, you're out of luck.
But while all of these features and market practices may
make sense, will we see any of them? The larger form factor is a pretty safe
bet. The LTE support is likely and the larger battery is also likely. But
otherwise it depends on just how badly Apple wants to innovate and that's up to