The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Apple will begin production of the next-generation iPhone this quarter in anticipation of a potential summer release.
That would be a historically fast turnaround for the company.
But Apple may have little choice. It has repeatedly seen its sales growth slip into negative territory in the long intervals between phone models. The company may not want to head into this year’s crucial fourth quarter — when holiday shopping drives sales — without a new iPhone.
In the past, Apple has waited a year or more between new phones. The iPhone 5 was released four quarters after the iPhone 4S, itself released five quarters after the iPhone 4, which was released four quarters after the iPhone 3GS.
If Apple were to introduce the next-generation iPhone at this June’s WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference), that would be a record three quarters between new models.
The interlude between the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 was particularly bad for iPhone sales. It is very likely that Apple would have experienced three consecutive quarters of negative iPhone sales growth were it not for the fact that the third quarter of 2012 captured some iPhone 5 sales.
Samsung, on the other hand, continues to chug along, leaning on its more varied smartphone offering to sustain sales. It has not experienced a quarter of negative shipments growth and is less inclined towards wild oscillations than Apple (Samsung’s first initial spike in the chart below corresponds to the first major acceleration of Android adoption).
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