Will Apple Surprise With an iPhone 6 Next Spring?

Potential iPhone 5 buyers might be smart to hold off until spring, according to a report on Money Morning entitled “Why the Apple iPhone 5’s Lack of Killer Features is Pure Genius.” The piece speculates that the reason Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) didn’t add certain hoped-for features like NFC, wireless battery charging, or biometric security to the new iPhone, which launches Friday, is that those will be the selling points of the iPhone 6, which may come half a year earlier than expected.

“What if Apple has decided to modify its upgrade cycle to two iPhones a year instead of just one?” the article queries. After all, sales of the iPhone 4S slid dramatically during Apple’s June quarter, causing the company to fall short of expectations for the first time in years, as consumers awaited the newer model. Not only was the iPhone 4S competing against rumors of the iPhone 5, but was also facing competition from elsewhere in the market, with many of Apple’s rivals beating it to the punch with 4G smartphones.

“As they continue to improve, it’s getting harder for Apple to hold out for an entire year between updates,” the report suggests. The iPhone accounts for around half of Apple’s revenue and about two-thirds of its profits, so it would be smart to avoid such “dramatic swings in iPhone sales” as they will have a significant impact on earnings, the report continues.

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With increased competition, even loyal Apple customers are less likely to wait months to upgrade their iPhones when they could opt instead for Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android or Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows phones. While a new iPhone can compete with the best of the best, an iPhone that is nearly a year old can’t hold its own in the ever-evolving market.

Furthermore, the new features of the iPhone 5 aren’t quite as revolutionary as might have been hoped, and are unlikely to be enough to sustain sales until next fall, though initial quarterly sales are expected to be the best ever for the iPhone.

The report makes a good point, but it might also be said that the current launch schedule works in Apple’s favor, as it allows sufficient hype to build ahead of a release, leading to record-breaking sales figures during the important year-end quarter. Closer launch dates might also discourage some Apple customers who don’t want to purchase devices that will so quickly be made obsolete.

So far, there’s no actual evidence suggesting Apple has plans to launch a new iPhone this spring, but if it does, expect to see a new iPhone next fall as well. And expect to see fewer modifications in each subsequent iPhone as Apple learns to hold back so as to save something for the next device. After all, it does take some time to develop these new features and technologies.

Shares of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) are trading at $698.30 in Thursday trading as of 12:15 pm EST.

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