A new report says that 43% of iPhone owners still have older models with 3.5-inch displays. These users present a great upgrade opportunity for Apple (AAPL) when it comes out with its rumored, big-screen iPhone 6 later this year, CLSA analyst Avi Silver said in a research note Friday.
“This subscriber base with small screens will be ripe for upgrades once the larger-screen iPhone devices hit the market in September,” Silver said.
Many iPhone 4 and 4S owners skipped the iPhone 5 and 5S cycles because Apple didn’t come out with larger display phones, he said. The iPhone 5 series phones have 4-inch displays vs. 3.5-inch displays for the iPhone 4 series. They compare with 5.1 inches for Samsung’s new Galaxy S5, out Friday, and 5.7 inches for its Galaxy Note 3.
The iPhone 6 is rumored to be coming in two models: one with a 4.7-inch display and another with a 5.5-inch display.
CLSA estimates that Apple has 308 million active iPhone users today. Of those, 131 million, or about 43%, have older models with 3.5-inch screens.
Reports indicate that Apple will introduce its 4.7-inch iPhone 6 in September, followed by the 5.5-inch model in November or December.
Silver finds this launch schedule curious.
“The timeline of iPhone launches is somewhat puzzling,” he wrote. “December is not an optimal time to launch a new product. It may simply be a function of component constraints, but if Apple launches that in Nov./Dec., it will need to make a hard decision about whether to announce it in September (full disclosure to prevent buyer’s remorse) or not (avoid having users wait and see which product they want).”
Investors would like Apple to stagger its iPhone launches to counter Samsung’s phone launches, he said.
Cowen & Co. analyst Timothy Arcuri also expects Apple to come out with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 models. But he thinks that both will launch together in September.
In a research note Friday, Arcuri said that he expects the unit-sales split for the iPhone 6 to be two-thirds 4.7-inch model and one-third 5.5-inch model.
“The fact that the rest of the smartphone market has already standardized around larger screen sizes suggests a very large upgrade opportunity for both the existing Apple installed base and would-be Apple customers who left the ecosystem for a larger screen alternative,” Arcuri said.
Separately,Amazon.com (AMZN) will release a long-rumored smartphone in the second half of the year, according to the Wall Street Journal. The article says that the Amazon handset will have a 3D-like screen display that does not require special glasses. An announcement could come in June.