Will Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) next-generation iPhone make a summertime debut? Since the release of the iPhone 4S in 2011, Apple has shifted its iPhone release times from the summer to the fall. Most analysts have been expecting that Apple would follow the same product refresh cycle this year with the release of a large-screen iPhone 6 sometime in the fall of 2014. However, at least one analyst believes that Apple may launch the new iPhone model (or models) earlier than expected this year.
In a note to investors obtained by StreetInsider, Mizuho Securities analyst Abhey Lamba cited supply chain checks in Asia that indicated vendors are gearing up for iPhone production earlier than usual this year. “Recently, the company has been introducing new lineup in September time frame whereas the next generation phones could come out in July this year,” wrote Lamba. “The earlier launch will be helpful for Apple as it will ensure significant availability and distribution of the new device during the holiday season.”
Besides suggesting that Apple may return to a summertime iPhone launch date, Lamba’s supply chain checks also affirmed rumors that Apple would release multiple new models of the next iPhone with larger screen sizes. According to the analyst’s sources, the screen sizes will range from 4.7 inches to 5.5 inches. Apple’s iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S both have 4-inch screen sizes. Lamba’s screen size predictions aligned with multiple rumors reported by various other media outlets. For example, last month the Wall Street Journal reported that the next-generation iPhone models would include one with a screen size larger than 4.5 inches and another with a screen size larger than 5 inches. However, the Wall Street Journal’s sources didn’t provide a specific release date for the new iPhones and only indicated that the devices would become available during the second half of 2014.
More recently, the South China Morning Post cited unnamed “industry insiders” that indicated that the so-called iPhone 6 will be available with a 4.7-inch screen and 5.5-inch screen. The South China Morning Post report also affirmed rumors that the iPhone 6 would feature a sapphire protective covering for the display. Lamba didn’t address the sapphire iPhone rumors, but noted that the new iPhones could feature enhanced fingerprint scanners with additional applications.
Besides predicting an earlier iPhone launch date, Lamba’s supply chain checks also indicated that Apple is preparing to launch the long-rumored iWatch and a revamped Apple TV later this year. “While the timing of the launches is uncertain, we would expect these products to be introduced in 2H14,” wrote Lamba in a note seen by StreetInsider. Based on the positive buzz about the iPhone 6 and hints of a new product category, Lamba reiterated an “Outperform” rating on Apple shares and a price target of $575. Here’s how Apple has traded over the past five sessions.
Follow Nathanael on Twitter (@ArnoldEtan_WSCS)