Apple (AAPL) traditionally reveals its latest iPhone models in September. But could the iPhone 6 be coming sooner this year?
Starting with the iPhone 4s, September 21 was the day you could expect to line up for the latest and greatest from AAPL. But according to Reuters and other sources, it’s looking as though Apple is set to break its pattern this year, with the iPhone 6 release date potentially taking place in August.
Nothing has been confirmed by Apple, not that the secretive company ever responds to any rumors. And even if they were to shake things up with an August announcement, that doesn’t guarantee the iPhone 6 release date would actually be in August. However, AAPL — unlike Microsoft (MSFT), for example — is usually careful not to pre-announce products until they are ready to ship.
Why would AAPL move the iPhone 6 release date up compared to past models? I can think of a few reasons.
Consumers Hold Off Buying New iPhones
Knowing that September usually brings a new iPhone leads to a period of slowing sales as consumers stop buying and start waiting. The new iPhone is not always available in sufficient quantities early in the quarter to make up for that drop-off. Unexpectedly moving the iPhone 6 to August would up the chances of a blowout Q4 for Apple, since the slowdown period would be shorter and there would be at least a few additional weeks of sales of the new iPhone 6 in that period.
Two iPhone 6 Models, One is Delayed
I am as certain as you can be about anything that there will be two iPhone 6 releases, a 4.7-inch version aimed at mainstream consumers and a 5.5-inch phablet version. There has been significant chatter around the larger Apple iPhone 6 being delayed. Whether this is because of difficulties with the sapphire glass AAPL is reported to be featuring on this model, or other production challenges, rumor sites all seem to agree it’s going to be late in arriving.
Hold off and release the two together and you risk losing a lot of sales to rivals like Samsung (SSNLF) while potential upgraders fume over delays. Space two releases too close together –with the smaller iPhone 6 in the traditional September launch window– and Apple runs the risk of new iPhone fatigue cutting into sales of the bigger model.
Releasing the smaller (but still bigger) iPhone 6 in August lets AAPL sell a ton of new iPhones through August and September, with the windfall of having the excitement die down only to rise again with a second iPhone launch event later in the year.
Back-to-School Apple Sales
August is the time when back-to-school sales ramp up and when high school and college students (or their parents) start shopping for computers. By mid-September, that rush has died down. Having line-ups for the new iPhone 6 in Apple stores in August is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the students and their parents, perhaps moving more iMacs and MacBooks.
Apple is big on back-to-school promotions. Last year it offered a free iTunes gift card with a Mac purchase as a fall promo, and in previous years it gave students a free iPod Touch with an iMac or MacBook purchase. An August timeframe would let Apple put together a killer back-to-school bundle –perhaps a discounted MacBook Air with an iPhone 6 purchase– that could goose sales in both the iPhone and Mac divisions.
With two iPhone 6 models all but a sure thing, the possibility that the larger and presumably more expensive model may be delayed makes an August release for the second model (and the one most likely to resonate with average consumers) a smart bet. Shaking up the upgrade cycle by releasing an iPhone 6 earlier than usual and taking advantage of the back-to-school rush to nudge iPhone 6 buyers to a new MacBook are just bonuses to moving up the iPhone 6 release date.
Obviously, we’ll have to wait and see, but with so much riding on the iPhone 6, I’m going to go out on a limb and say AAPL pulls the trigger in August.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities