Here are your Apple rumors and AAPL news items for today:
Attraction: An analyst says that a large portion of iPhone owners would pay more to purchase a larger handset if Apple (AAPL) releases one this year, Barron’s notes. Tavis McCourt, an analyst at Raymond James, says that 33% of current iPhone users would even be willing to pay $100 above current flagship iPhone prices to buy a larger screen iPhone. By contrast, last year, only 26% of iPhone users expressed that sentiment. While existing iPhone owners are clearly anticipating a bigger-screen iPhone, McCourt says that just 6% of people currently using smartphones running Google’s (GOOG) Android OS would be will to shell out an extra $100 to purchase a bigger-screen iPhone. McCourt notes that the data suggest that the launch of a larger-screen iPhone would “improve upgrade rates for Apple” but probably wouldn’t boost the iPhone’s market share. McCourt’s most recent quarterly survey of smartphone owners indicated that Apple has a 52.3% share of the U.S. smartphone market, down from 56% at the end of last year, but still higher than 49.4% during the same period in 2013. Among respondents to the survey, 49.7% said their next smartphone would be an iPhone, suggesting that Apple’s marketshare will remain stable. Recent rumors indicate that Apple has developed two prototypes for its next-generation iPhone — one with a 4.7-inch screen and another with a 5.5-inch screen. It remains unclear if it will release both models at the same time later this year. The current flagship iPhone 5s features a 4-inch display.
Progress: A source tells AppleInsider that construction personnel at Apple’s new sapphire component production facility in Arizona are “working around the clock and even on weekends” to finish the facility by June. Apple is also rumored to be contemplating the expansion of the facility into a structure once owned by First Solar (FSLR) that is still located on the site. Recent pictures of the plant — a joint venture between Apple and GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT) — show that work on the buildings is moving along at a rapid pace. Regulatory filings from early this year indicated that Apple expected the plant to be partially operational some time in February. The plant, located near the city of Mesa, is expected to produce sapphire components for Apple’s next-generation iPhone, possibly including screen covers.
More Poaching: Apple has recruited Delta Air Lines’ (DAL) vice president of marketing to become vice president at its online store, AdAge notes. Bob Kupbens had been with Delta since 2010. Prior to Delta he worked for retailer Target (TGT) and consultancy A.T. Kearney. Kupbens told attendees at a 2013 AdAge Digital Conference that when he told people that he worked at Target, they replied that they “love Target,” whereas when he said he worked for Delta, people responded less enthusiastically because airlines aren’t brands that consumers usually love. Apple is currently ranked as the most valuable brand in the world and enjoys considerable loyalty from Apple device owners.
For more about the company, check out our previous Apple Rumors stories.