Why iPhone 6 Will Launch by June 2013
While Apple experts and Wall Street pundits were expecting the iPad Mini to be announced on Oct. 23rd, all were shocked by the launch of the iPad 4. After all, millions of consumers (including me) were quick to purchase the New iPad (iPad 3) in record numbers in March. The remarkable feat of reducing their iPad product life cycle by 38% from an average of 13 months to 8 months (see chart) is a significant sign of things to come for their flagship product: the iPhone.
Since the iPhone 5 was announced and available in September, there are six reasons why we can expect an iPhone 6 announcement by June of 2013 (9 months after the iPhone 5):
- Apple needs the WOW factor: In order to re-capture the imagination of Apple fans, it’s time for Apple to “think different” from its past product release trends. The iPhone 5 brought incremental changes to the iPhone 4S. Many iPhone 4S owners can receive nearly the same features as the iPhone 5 by upgrading to iOS 6 (for free). Apple loyalists want to clap and cheer for the iPhone 6 with the same feeling they had when the original iPhone was announced by Jobs (see video). Let's get wowed again.
- Apple wants to lead, not follow. Samsung has tremendous momentum in U.S. and global smartphone market share (see chart). While the Nielsen chart shows U.S. market share comparisons, Gartner reported that global smartphone market share for Samsung for 2Q2012 reached 64% while Apple had 18.8%, only slightly more than 2Q11 (18.2%). Apple needs a catalyst to jump-start its market share growth against its formidable foe.
- Apple sales S-curves are too short. Product managers/marketers use the S-curve to carefully manage when the next product should be introduced. Apple has been a master of maximizing revenues and profits from the launch of a product to the ramp phase (mass market adoption) to the mature phase (sales plateau, then subside). While the average iPhone PLC has been 14 months, the peak sales curve (ramp phase) of the iPhone 4S spanned a period of three months and the peak sales curve for iPhone 5 is projected to be 4 months. Thus, Apple needs shorter PLCs to continue to return value to its shareholders and deliver new value to consumers because revenue, profit and earnings shrink within two quarters after an iPhone announcement. No company wants lackluster sales for the vast majority of a product life cycle.
- Apple is at war with Samsung. Let’s face it. Despite Samsung being a supplier to Apple (and that is changing fast), this war is far from over. By October of 2012, Apple and Samsung have been involved in at least 50 lawsuits in at least 10 countries and there’s no end in sight. According to the latest US court decision, Apple revolutionized the phone and Samsung copied it. The jury awarded Apple more than $1 billion in damages.
- Apple leads in operational excellence. While it’s one thing to be innovative, it’s another to deliver smartphones on time in several countries with several different wireless standards. Apple has an excellent track record for six different iPhones and what’s about to be five different iPads. Although Samsung claimed that Samsung’s Galaxy S III launch delays resulted from overwhelming demand, the reality was that there were several manufacturing challenges that Samsung had to overcome “in order to meet the highest internal quality standards.” Samsung missed the pre-announced launch date. Apple did launch the iPhone 5 on time, yet then received overwhelming demand which has been leading to delivery delays.
- Been there, done that. The iPad 4 announcement tipped Apple’s hand by showing us what’s possible: a shorter time to market (TTM). The iPad 4 launch cut five months from the average iPad TTM and the iPhone 5 launch cut three months from the average iPhone TTM. Even if Apple were to announce iPhone 6 by June and make it available in July, that would be 10 months TTM from the iPhone 5 which is quite doable because the iPhone 5 had a TTM of 11 months. I’m forecasting June 2013 only because it synchronizes well with their next anticipated WWDC in June of next year. The quick TTM for the iPad 4 will translate to a fast TTM for the next iPhone.