Apple has made its largest-yet initial order for iPhones, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal. The order encompasses devices with both 4.7- and 5.5-inch displays, echoing rumors we’ve been hearing for a while now, but the WSJ’s sources say that Apple has ordered between 70 million and 80 million units combined across the two styles, which is increased well above the 50 to 60 million Apple ordered across the iPhone 5s and 5c lines ahead of their launch. Apple’s iPhone line has continued to post growth, so increasing expectations is natural, but this might also be a case of ‘bigger is better.’
It’s unclear yet exactly how these two new versions of the iPhone will be priced and positioned, but the WSJ report says that both will feature metal cases similar to the current iPhone 5s, and both will be available in multiple colors or finishes. The 5.5-inch model is supposedly seeing yield issues because of the challenges of building an in-cell display that large (where glass and components are fused in a single layer) but they’ve asked component suppliers to prepare for additional components to account for higher failure rates on production lines. The 4.7-inch device will begin production next month at Foxconn and Pegatron, and Hon Hai will produce the 5.5-inch model exclusively starting in September, according to the WSJ, which means both should be on track to ship ahead of the holidays.
As mentioned, given past performance, Apple has every reason to expect new growth in the iPhone category, but a bigger phone might make for a bigger than usual bump in sales. The large-screened device has become a favorite with consumers, particularly in key markets like China where Apple has a growing presence. Apple waiting this long to enter the market may work to its advantage, however, as there is likely pent-up demand for the device now thanks to the proliferation of larger screens on Android devices, whereas had they launched it years ago interest would likely have come from only the curious and early adopters (remember our initial aversion to the idea of the ‘phablet,’ compared to a general acceptance of 5-inch and larger displays now).
Apple saw an increase of 7 percent in iPhone sales in last year’s December quarter, versus analyst expectations of a 15 percent bump, based on supply constraints for the iPhone 5s and lower demand for the iPhone 5c. But according to most rumors, Apple seems intent on sticking to all-metal designs for its new devices. A little bit of fan service through larger screens, combined with lessons learned from last year’s launch, should indeed make this the most exciting iPhone launch since the debut of the original devices.