Rumored for 2013: A More Colorful iPhone (or Maybe Two)

  • Share
  • Read Later

The rumor mill is buzzing about what might be next for Apple’s iPhone, and it’s not all stuff we’ve heard before.

In addition to the usual chatter about NFC, Jefferies analyst Peter Misek thinks the next iPhone–or “iPhone 5S” as he calls it–will have a “super HD” display, and will come in six to eight colors, just like the new iPod Touch. Misek believes the phone will launch in June, breaking with Apple’s recent fall release schedule. (More on that shortly.)

Before we go any further, allow me to put up a big fat disclaimer: When it comes to Apple rumors, Misek has an iffy track record. His bad predictions include a T-Mobile iPhone in 2011 (he’ll be off by two years), an Apple-made Netflix rival in 2011 (hasn’t happened), a Verizon iPhone in 2010 (off by a year) and an Apple television late this year (not happening). I should know better than to recirculate this stuff.

But! Apple did launch its iPod Touch in eight colors. And colorful phones are kind of an in-thing right now, with handsets like the Windows Phone 8x, Lumia 920 and Galaxy S III coming in hues beyond white, silver and gray. The idea of more color options for the iPhone seems plausible, not that it matters, since you’re going to wrap your iPhone in a bulky, multicolored case anyway.

Two iPhones Per Year?

The other, more credible and semi-related bit of rumor-mongering comes from Asymco analyst Horace Dediu, who makes the case for Apple switching to a twice-a-year product cycle for new iPhones and iPads.

Among Dediu’s reasons for thinking so: All of Apple’s major products were updated this fall, which leaves a huge gap in the first half of next year; a spring launch would shake up an iPhone product cycle so predictable that consumers hold off on buying iPhones until the fall (a problem that Apple has acknowledged); and capital expenditures seem to be outpacing production. Also, Apple did launch new 9.7-inch iPads in March and November of this year, which could be a sign of things to come.

But launching a new iPhone twice a year presents its own problems. New iPhone launches tend to coincide with new versions of iOS, whose features become tied into Apple’s hardware marketing. The panorama feature in iOS 6, which works on both the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, is a recent example. Unless iOS development is also speeding up, beyond its annual fall launch cycle, a spring iPhone won’t have as much going for it.

Apple also risks taking the luster out of its product launches by updating its hardware twice a year. The incremental improvements in the fourth-generation iPad were practically an afterthought in October’s press event, overshadowed by big announcements like the iPad Mini and redesigned iMacs. Maybe that’s the idea–get people to stop dreaming of the next iPad by making newer models seem less significant–but it comes at the cost of excitement for greatly-improved hardware.

Perhaps Apple is using the fourth-generation iPad to test the waters for semi-annual iPhones. If sales spike beyond expectations this quarter, it could bode well for an iPhone 5S in the spring.