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What Apple's Huge Quarter Means For The iPhone 5

Posted: 04/24/2012 4:46 pm

If you were hoping for a radically redesigned iPhone 5 to come out really, really soon, you now officially have 35.1 million of your peers to blame.

Apple reported its first quarter earnings Tuesday afternoon, and the numbers were once again Macauley-Culkin-in-Richie-Rich-enormous: $39.1 billion in revenue, accounted for by almost 12 million iPads, 8 million iPods, 4 million Macs, and 2 million aluminum cans with an inscription of an Apple made with a rusty nail (just kidding -- that won't be out until July).

Those are huge numbers, but the biggest number belonged once again to the iPhone, which Apple sold 35.1 million units of. That's more than Wall Street analysts predicted, thanks in part to stronger than expected demand in China, where the iPhone launched in January to rabid, riotous crowds.

A company's financial results generally mean little to those who haven't invested in stock (and if you did -- TIME TO BUY A FLOCK OF MINI-GIRAFFES!). In this case, however, the continued strong demand for the iPhone 4S -- which many, including this columnist, lamented in October was cosmetically unchanged from the iPhone 4 -- would seem to indicate one thing: There's no real reason for Apple to radically redesign the iPhone, nor is there any pressure for Apple to rush out with an updated iPhone.

Over the past few months, there have been some oddly persistent rumors that Apple would release its new iPhone this summer -- specifically in June, at the Worldwide Developer's Conference. Now, if you were Apple -- walk down this imagination alley with me -- and sales of the iPhone 4S were still so astronomically high, especially in emerging markets where the phone was just released months ago: Would you be hurrying to get out a new iPhone in three months?

No, you wouldn't. You would be happy to ride out these strong sales as long as you could. You would be happy to wait until the iPhone's natural life cycle (one year) had run. You would be patient, and let the money shower over your head, and you would laugh, and laugh, and laugh, until the money stopped raining.

In other words, you would be glad to wait until at least the fall to release your sixth-generation iPhone, which, given these numbers, it now seems certain that Apple will do.

(You might also note that Apple's prediction for next quarter, which includes the month of June, is far too low to entail an iPhone launch. Apple expects iPhone sales to decline by about 10 million units in the next quarter, which doesn't sound like an iPhone release is coming.)

Now, about that smartphone redesign. Everyone with a keyboard and a blog with "Mac" in the title thought that Apple would introduce a thinner, taller, wider iPhone 5 last October. That iDevice stayed in the lab, apparently, with Apple instead outing the iPhone 4S, shaped and sized the same as the iPhone 4. Many Apple watchers announced their disappointment by ranting at anyone who would listen on Twitter and Facebook.

Well, the bellyaching back in October may have been loud, but consumers are speaking louder with their wallets: Apple sold a record 39 million iPhones in the last three months of 2011, and another 35 million in the first three months of 2012.

So, you've got 74 million smartphones sold with that "disappointing" 3.5-inch display, and that boxish design, and that all-glass make -- why change what is clearly working in the market? Why reinvent the iWheel? Competitors may be upping the screen size and specs, but Apple is still making Olympic-sized swimming pools full of money from its own diminutive phone.

Why risk upsetting the universe with a smartphone that looks nothing like your ultra-mega-record-setting one?

These terrific sales figures are great news for Apple and its (mini-giraffe-owning) investors, but not such great news for those hoping that a 7-inch, gold-plated iPhone 5 with physical keyboard and miniature unicorn horns would drop in June.

Demand for the iPhone 4S is still soaring months after its release. That means your current iPhone case just might fit the next iPhone, too -- though perhaps you can diamond-plate it, if you went long on AAPL.

Check out the slideshow (below) to see our recent roundup of the last week's juiciest Apple rumors, several of which claim that a completely redesigned iPhone 5 is on the way. Do you think these rumors still hold water, or are you convinced that the next iPhone won't be that different from the iPhone 4S?

Analyst: iPhone 5 Will Be 'Mother Of All Upgrades'
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A lot of folks are expecting big things from the next iPhone, and this edition of This Week In Apple Rumors will do nothing to minimize your already too-high expectations.

Put on your crazy pants: It's time to listen to some Wall Street analyst predictions for the iPhone 5!

Let's start with Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray, a noted Apple fanboy/analyst ("fanalyst") who sees the stock hitting $1000 at some point, said in an interview on Bloomberg will be "the mother of all upgrades." That's right: The next iPhone is literally going to birth out of its headphone jack, from the sheer force of its improvements, every other upgrade to anything ever.

Munster predicts a new form factor for the iPhone, the addition of 4G LTE, and "lines around shopping malls" when it comes out in October. Prepare for boom time this fall, Orange Julius employees!

(Did we mention that Munster -- the guy saying all of this stuff about how amazing the next iPhone is going to be -- is a Wall Street analyst who has said that Apple's stock will rise almost $400? Because that seems like an important footnote to his prediction).

For more iPhone chatter (oh, is there ever more!), let us now turn to Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

 

Follow Jason Gilbert on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gilbertjasono

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