Apple has received some good news as it preps its neuveau iPhone 6 for launch: the aging iPhone 5S is already outselling the flagship phones of its two primary smartphone competitors combined. Despite having been on the market for the better part of a year, the 5S still ranks as the world’s number one selling smartphone device, even as one Android vendor after another has stepped to the plate this year with new headlining models while Apple has remained quiet. That sets up the iPhone 6 to enter the market at number one with a bullet, as its newly designed body and bigger screen will drive its initial sales far higher than that of the iPhone 5S. But Apple still has some work to do.
While the big-screen iPhone 6 will perform strongly at the top of Apple’s smartphone lineup, the rest of the lineup is less certain. Apple may opt to keep the iPhone 5S around as its $99 mid range phone and the iPhone 5C as a free with contract option. But that will put buyers in the position of having to pony up two hundred dollars if they want anything more than a four inch screen, or a phone with this year’s specs. While the Galaxy S5 sells in that same price range, the critically acclaimed but comparatively poor selling HTC One M8 will likely find its way to a significantly lower price point by the time the iPhone 6 makes its debut.
Another option for Apple is to introduce the iPhone 6 at $99 but make the introductory model more basic, while saving the feature frills, the premium color choices, and the dual processor for the $199 version. That could impact margins negatively if too many consumers settle for the base iPhone 6 model. However the same Counterpoint Research study which crowned the iPhone 5S the king of smartphone sales has also made clear that the iPhone 5C isn’t selling well. That means most iPhone buyers have chosen the more expensive 5S over the cheaper 5C, a trend which Apple could hope to capitalize on. Still it’s more likely that Apple will keep the 5S and 5C around at $99 and $0, respectively, while initially positioning the iPhone 6 at the $199 mark and then authorizing third party deals to adjust pricing down the road if need be.
The iPhone 6 will have a rather long window of opportunity as well. Apple will introduce it in the September 2014 range, and if its rivals continue true to form when it comes to their launch schedules, the iPhone 6 will remain in the top sales spot until at least the spring when Samsung introduces the Galaxy S6 and HTC reveals its successor to the M8. The only major Android phone which may debut before the year over is the successor the Nexus 5, which may appear around October if its launch patterns holds.
Of particular interest is just what screen sizes Apple will offer for the iPhone 6. A larger model is a given, ostensibly in the 4.7 inch range, and Apple will almost certainly offer the iPhone 6 in the current 4.0 inch size as well. There are widespread rumors of a 5.5 inch iPhone 6 model, but that seems unlikely given that the sweet spot of the sales market for smartphones in 2014 is clearly in the 4.0 to 5.0 inch range.