Apple leaks rekindle some hope for iPhone 'supercycle' this year

Dual-SIM, China-only and budget models with ageing guts among rumoured kit

Leaks of a forthcoming budget iPhone have boosted predictions that Apple will sell more smartphones in 2019.

In 2017, the launch of the iPhone X marked the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone. It was predicted to spark a "supercycle" of demand – a term coined by Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi – given that Apple received even more publicity than usual, and hadn't changed the fundamental design in years.

Around 25 to 27 per cent of iPhone owners upgrade each year. A third of those who stayed put last year cited the cost of the X. By April this year, the iPhone X was being outsold by the older designs.

Apple is expected to launch three models next month, with a 6.1-inch budget LCD version the most interesting. Interesting because it could be Apple's first dual-SIM, China-only model. The presence of a second SIM slot was inferred from code found in a beta of iOS 12. The suggestion that only China will receive the model comes from a Taiwan report (via GSMArena).

Apple's developer tool (below) appears to confirm support for three new models, one of which would have 2016's A10 processor, found in the iPhone 7.

Among some analysts, hopes for a supercycle this year have been revived. The logic is that pent-up demand will be expressed in sales thanks to "price points and features that catalyze fence-sitting iPhone customers onto their next smartphone during the course of FY19", according to GBH Insights this week, though it's something they've been saying since the most recent earnings.

Around 1.3 billion iPhones are active globally, and a steady 25 to 27 per cent of the base upgrades every year. An exception was 2015 (36 per cent), as Apple introduced what was then a "phablet" model and switched from a 4-inch display model to 4.7 inch for its mainstay iPhone.

It's doubtful any of the three models are likely to match the price of Apple's current "budget" model, the 4-inch iPhone SE. This launched in 2016 and has seen one refresh since. Perhaps even Apple isn't immune to falling mid-market prices. ®

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