Business / Tech

Apple may spark upgrade rush with new iPhones and tight pricing

Reuters

Apple Inc. could sell as many as 200 million of its latest iPhones from existing users upgrading their older devices and much of that demand will come from China despite the ongoing trade war with the U.S., several Wall Street analysts said Monday.

The company was widely expected to launch three new iPhones this week featuring upgraded processors and new camera functionality, along with a video streaming service that will take on the likes of Netflix Inc. and Walt Disney.

The upgrade cycle could translate into roughly 180 million iPhone units sold in the next 12 months with roughly 60 million to 70 million consumers due for an upgrade in China, where Apple struggled with its last launch, Wedbush analysts said.

Apple currently has about 900 million active iPhones globally and the combination of slack sales for its iPhone X launches since 2017 and relatively tight control of pricing may spur demand from users who have been holding out, several analysts said.

“These old phones would be candidates for upgrade and we continue to look at fiscal 2020 as a ‘Trade-in’ iPhone cycle versus 2021, which should be a 5G-driven cycle,” Bank of America analysts said.

They estimated there were 200 million iPhone 6 and earlier models that are primed for upgrading.

Apple’s 2020 fiscal year starts in October and none of the brokerages expected it to launch a 5G-enabled iPhone this time round — in contrast to recent 5G mobile launches by Samsung Electronics and China’s OnePlus.

Analysts and other industry watchers expect Apple to launch three smartphones: a 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro, a 6.5-inch 11 Pro Max and a low-priced 6.1-inch 11R.

The base model is expected to be priced at $749, the iPhone 11 Pro at $999 and iPhone Pro Max at $1,099, roughly unchanged from last year’s prices, with the company opting to push through any potential tariffs on the devices in favor of boosting sales volumes.

Apple faces levies of 15 percent imposed by the U.S. government on products made in China, including smartwatches and wireless headphones, as of Sept. 1, with a tariff on the iPhone to take effect Dec. 15.

Apple has seen bumps in demand in China this year, driven by Chinese online retailers discounting iPhones.

“Apple saw meaningful elasticity of demand in China when it lowered the price of iPhone XR, and we expect Apple to potentially lower pricing of some models,” the Bank of America analysts said.

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