Demand for iPhone 4 still high even as iPhone 5 looms

Sep 14, 2011
Finance

Apple’s next iPhone is expected to be announced this month and probably released in the early part of October. Despite the fact that there’s likely another iPhone on the horizon, though, it seems demand for the current-generation Apple device is still going strong. According to a story from All Things D, at least one analyst […]

Apple’s next iPhone is expected to be announced this month and probably released in the early part of October. Despite the fact that there’s likely another iPhone on the horizon, though, it seems demand for the current-generation Apple device is still going strong.

According to a story from All Things D, at least one analyst expects Apple to sell better than 18 million iPhone 4s in this quarter, despite the fact that the iPhone 5 is considered imminent by just about everybody. Stern Agee analyst Shawn Wu upped his expectation for Apple’s iPhone 4 sales to 18.5 million from 15.7 million for this quarter, which isn’t quite the 20.4 million of last quarter, but is fully respectable for a phone that was released in June 2010.

The iPhone 4 remains one of the top-selling smartphones in the world, and the iPhone model in total is at the top of the heap as far as individual phone models are concerned. And rumor has it that while Apple expects the iPhone 5 to sell well, it still is ordering a whole lot of old iPhones from its suppliers to keep stores stocked: as many as 30 million iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS models, compared with the 26 million orders that are supposedly for the iPhone 5.

Unlike other iPhone models, Ars Technica reports, the iPhone 4’s popularity has continued to trend up when earlier iPhones trended downward. With the earlier models, demand would be highest right at the devices’ release, then taper off gradually until the next iPhone was released a year later. With the iPhone 4, Apple has managed to keep demand increasing even though the cycle between the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 is longer than usual by about four months. Mostly, this has been due to the release of new, high-profile models. Apple dropped the iPhone 4 on Verizon in February, which spiked demand, and then did it again with the white iPhone 4 a few months later. The result: record iPhone sales.

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But while old iPhones are still doing well, interest in the next iteration of the device is very high as well, according to one survey. Investment bank RBC Capital commissioned ChangeWave to conduct a survey of 2,200 potential smartphone buyers, according to an Ars Technica story. Here are some of its findings:

Nearly one-third of the respondents were either ‘very likely’ or ‘somewhat likely’ to buy an iPhone 5 when Apple makes it available. In comparison, just 25 percent of respondents were planning an iPhone 4 purchase in a similar survey conducted last June.

It’s not exactly crazy that a lot of respondents are interested in the upcoming new iPhone, but that’s a big chunk of respondents and a decent increase in the number interested in Apple’s device. According to the Ars Technica story, Mike Abramsky, an analyst with RBC Capital, has gone so far as to call the results “unprecedented iPhone 5 demand.” That itself is interesting, and likely it’s fueled by rumors that many more customers are going to be able to pick up iPhones in October.

Rumor has it that both T-Mobile and Sprint will be adding the iPhone 5 to their networks, which will bring the device to a whole lot more customers than ever before. It has already been speculated that the iPhone 5 could increase Apple’s share of the smartphone market, but if it adds two new carriers, it’s more than likely the iPhone could become a dominant force very quickly.

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Unfortunately, there’s nothing concrete about Apple’s plans right now, although the iPhone 5 announcement is expected any day. But Apple doesn’t appear to need to hurry much, if at all. Consumers want iPhones, even if they are 16 months old. It’s a pretty strong testament to the quality of the devices and Apple’s increasing slice of the mobile market all over the world.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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