Apple's iPhone 4S could rely on iPhone upgraders to drive its overall sales numbers, according to a new analyst report.
"We estimate 18.8 [million] users of the iPhone 3GS are likely to upgrade to the iPhone 4S," Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, wrote in an Oct. 11 research note. "Given our survey work suggests 94 [percent] of iPhone users expect to buy another iPhone, it appears Apple has built in an annuity of smartphone buyers." Munster believes the original iPhone 3GS, now free with contract, will also continue to attract users.
The iPhone 4S managed to presell some 1 million units in its first 24 hours of availability. If that sales rate continues, it could help to counter some early pundit and analyst disappointment in the device.
"Apple no longer has a leading edge, its cloud service is even behind Android; it can only sell on brand loyalty now," Gartner analyst C.K. Lu told Reuters Oct. 5.
In the months preceding the release, numerous tech publications insisted that Apple was preparing a major revamp to the iPhone line. "While the current crop of chatter on the Internet suggests the iPhone 5 will be little more than a spec bump to the iPhone 4, that's not the story we've been hearing at all," wrote the blog This Is My Next in an April posting, which included a rendering of an iPhone with a wider screen and a teardrop-shaped case.
When Apple executives stepped onto the stage at their company's headquarters Oct. 4, however, an iPhone 4 with a spec bump was exactly what they announced: The same shell encased a higher-end A5 processor and 8-megapixel camera, along with the latest iOS 5 operating system and the "Siri" digital personal assistant.
As a company, Apple is also dealing with the death of co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs, who passed away the day after the iPhone 4S debuted Oct. 4. Under Jobs' leadership, the company rolled out a line of hit products such as the iPhone, the iPod and the MacBook Air. Current CEO Tim Cook now has the responsibility of guiding the company forward, although reports indicate that Jobs left several years' worth of product plans before his death.