Apple iPhone 5 Coming in October as 'World Phone,' Tech Sites Predict

ANALYSIS

 
on August 17 2011 4:27 AM
iPhone 4
Apple's iPhone 4 is the most popular smartphone in the U.S. REUTERS

While there is still no official word on just when Apple will release the iPhone 5, one tech blog is now predicting an early October release date -- and the device could come as a "world phone."

Apple's next-generation iPhone -- whether it is an iterative of the "iPhone 4S" or a completely revamped "iPhone 5" -- could go on sale Oct. 7 in the U.S., according to the TiPb blog.

Amid rampant speculation in the blogosphere, it is anticipated that the next iPhone could come as a "world phone," compatible with both GSM and CDMA. It is also believed that the phone will feature a SIM-less design, including up to three to four internal antennas.

Still, it is also suggested that the iPhone 5 will feature a SIM card slot for other countries except the U.S. This would allow users to insert any SIM card in the iPhone when traveling abroad.

Apple's recent patent filing suggests that those rumors could see the light of the day very soon. In one patent configuration, Apple has decoupled the subscriber identifier values from the operational parameters specific to a wireless service provider. That implies that the user can use the same device at different times with different carriers. For example, the user can subscribe to a primary carrier at home and to a secondary service provider while traveling.

Carriers Could be the Losers

"If Apple pushes ahead with this offering, it will essentially sell devices at unsubsidized prices through their retail channel. This would completely sidestep the carriers," Rodman & Renshaw analyst Ashok Kumar said in a note to clients.

Consumers will pay full price up front and then possibly choose the service provider through Apple's cloud services. Carriers will then be forced to offer subsidies to entice users to sign on to their plans.

The final hardware acquisition cost for the user may not end up being materially different with this model. This turns on its head the current sequence of buyers first choosing the carrier and then the device. In essence, it reflects the rising power of Apple, Kumar said.

If this model takes flight, Apple will be in a position to disintermediate the carriers and take over the subscriber relationship completely. If Apple can wrest control of subscriber payments -- hardware, software and services -- its profitability could further improve.

Kumar said, however, it is unclear if this business model will be implemented with the iPhone 5 or a follow-on product as carriers are likely to resist.

Huge Volumes

In addition, a DigiTimes report citing an unnamed Taiwan-based supply chain maker said that Apple is boosting its total order volume for the iPhones by 12 to 13 percent in the second half of 2011, and it is expecting to make more than 56 million handsets.

The increase in estimates is expected to take place in the fourth quarter -- likely due to the launch of the iPhone 5 -- with production of the device expected to hit 25.5 million to 26 million units. The sources believe that total shipments will reach 95 million units in 2011, the report said.

Supply chain makers would typically benefit from the increase in component orders. But recent pricing pressure from Apple, especially on touchscreen makers, will cut into the bottom line.

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