iPhone 6 Release Date: June 2014?
I've been reflecting on when we are likely to see the iPhone 6. I guess most folks are expecting September/October, in line with the schedule of the past few years. However, I'm fairly convinced that we might see a summer release instead this year (i.e. announced at WWDC in June, available shortly thereafter).
Whilst many of you may scoff at my optimism, I really do think that there are many compelling arguments in favour of a quicker upgrade cycle this year, based on some unique market conditions:
- Go big, go fast: Apple has evidently now been persuaded of the compelling need to introduce a larger screen iPhone in order to retain the lucrative high end. Having done so, I should imagine they would want to execute on that decision relatively quickly.
Target your key demographic: This can be looked at from the "established" markets (e.g. US, Europe) and the "growing markets (primarily Asia):
- Established markets: Historically, an annual upgrade cycle suited Apple. It meant that loyal iPhone customers would be coming out of their 2 year lock-in around the same time that a compelling upgrade was available for them: e.g. announcing the iPhone 4 around the time that iPhone 3G customers are able to upgrade. However, we are at a tipping point where Apple can no longer simply rely on upgrading its existing customer base and winning the (vanishing) dumbphone market. To grow, Apple now needs to convert Android customers. In terms of timing the upgrade, therefore, there is more to be gained by offering a compelling option to Android customers favouring a bigger screen now than it is to have access to their existing iPhone 5 customers (who, for the most part, will not yet be free to upgrade).
- Asian markets: here the timing analysis is even simpler - ASAP. The vast majority of Apple's potential market here will be first time customers, so there are no carrier lock-in constraints to account for. When Asia (and China) is so clearly key to Apple's future growth, and reputedly a larger screen device is even more favoured here, then Apple needs to get that iPhone 6 out as soon as it can, so as not to concede too much ground to Android.
- Cutting your losses: Apple seems to have conceded that its iPhone 5c strategy has not worked as expected. Personally, I think the iPhone 5c is a cracking device, and would be a hugely compelling option if it moved down to the bottom tier currently occupied by the 4s (i.e. free on contract). However, it appears that Apple's intention is to ditch it completely. If this is so, surely they would like to bail sooner rather than later.
- Ready or not?: It's all very well saying that Apple would like to launch the iPhone 6 as soon as they are able, but of course there are realistic constraints on this. The main constraint, as I see it, is likely to be the purported sapphire display. However, 9to5 Mac's report indicates that the Mesa plant machinery will be live later this month, and able to churn out 100m screens a year (rising to 200m when their second installation is ready). Assuming a fairly consistent production schedule, rather than a slow ramp-up, some crude mathematics indicates that Apple could produce enough sapphire screens by the end of June to equip at least 30m iPhones; with another 30m-50m in the channel by September/October. That's plenty enough to meet a launch in June/July, and to satisfy demand in the months that follow (for reference, Apple sold 9m iPhones the weekend that the 5s launched, and approximately 50m over the following quarter).