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Summary:

Production challenges for a 5.5-inch handset could see Apple launch just a single new iPhone model this year says one analyst. That’s not necessarily a problem: Apple may not need to debut two larger iPhones for continued success.

iphone 6 mockup

When the next iPhone launches, don’t expect two new choices. That’s the thought from the often accurate KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who noted over the weekend that Apple is now likely to only debut a new 4.7-inch iPhone 6 handset this fall. The company was expected to launch a larger 5.5-inch iPhone as well, but Kuo says those plans are delayed due to production challenges for the bigger handset.

ipod touch on top of iphone 6 mock

9to5 Mac plucked this quote from Kuo’s most recent research note, which explains the problem and timeline:

We think the 5.5-inch model will also have issues with the yield rate of in-cell touch panel and color unevenness of metal casing. Indeed, these problems will likely be even more complicated with a larger size. In addition, from a technical perspective, we don’t expect sapphire cover, used for the first time on the 5.5-inch model, will easily pass the drop test near term. We are conservative about 5.5-inch iPhone launching by end-2014. Even if the product is launched in 2014, it is likely to take place after mid-4Q14, which is later than the September-October of consensus, with shipments being lower than consensus of 15- 20mn units.

While we’ve seen a number of reportedly leaked iPhone 6 parts lately, more of them have supported the notion that Apple is making a new 4.7-inch handset that takes rounded design cues from the iPod touch. I’ve seen fewer parts, casings and mock-ups of the reported 5.5-inch model. That suggests that Kuo could be right in backing off from the dual-phone launch scenario.

ipod touch v iphone 6

The launch of two new phones never really sat well with me anyway. While Apple could change its playbook, it has never launched a pair of new handsets at the same time. Instead, the company follows the tried but true approach of upgrading last year’s model with better components or with a whole new redesign. It’s not impossible that Apple could launch two new iPhones, but it’s not something the company has done before.

It’s also not something the company may even need to do. Simply bumping up the iPhone screen size from 4 to 4.7 inches — along with improvements in the chip, camera sensor and other components — will make many people happy enough. With Samsung recently warning investors about declining profits, Apple may not need to launch a bigger and “bigger-er” phone at the same time to keep iPhone growth moving in the right direction.

  1. Salvatore D'Agostino Monday, July 14, 2014

    Any comments on NFC related functionality?

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  2. ‘it has never launched a pair of new handsets at the same time’ – what about last year? The iPhone 5S & 5C.

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    1. I completely understand your point. But, I don’t really consider the 5C a “new” handset: It’s an iPhone 5 with plastic cover which isn’t radically different.

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  3. I’ll only be “happy” if they figure out the battery issues on this iteration of the device. Solar, hand crank, I really don’t care, I just need a changed phone for the day (or at least longer than 4 hours).

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  4. Jim Jackson Monday, July 14, 2014

    Apple is Megalophobic.

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  5. Mark Sequeira Monday, July 14, 2014

    It a longer screen, not a bigger screen. Big difference for those of us Phablet enthusiasts. If you don’t like Phablets or large screens, I understand. But this won’t sell for those of us that have been waiting for a larger screen.

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  6. A rumor about a rumor? How is this newsworthy?

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  7. The 5.5 inch will no doubt get a lot of Android users to switch to iOS no question. Many people only use Android due to screen size alone.

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