It’s iPhone 6S vs iPhone 7, and Apple finds itself at a crossroads. The release date for one or both new smartphones will surface within 2015, but there are now at least four permutations of how that schedule will be implemented in Cupertino, with rumors swirling from all sides. The emergence of the Apple iWatch has thrown a wrench in the works, forcing Apple to reevaluate its traditional launch patterns and determine how best to approach a rapidly evolving cellphone landscape.
The first key for Apple is to decide whether is to decide whether to move up the iPhone 6S release date to the Spring of 2015 in order to ensure that the iWatch comes with a new iPhone model. That creates a landscape in which newly upgrade-eligible customers will be motivated to buy the iWatch immediately, and an iPhone 6S along with it, as opposed to putting off both purchases until the fall. If Apple goes this path, it must then decide whether to hold the iPhone 7 release date in the fall of 2015, effectively creating a half-year upgrade schedule, or whether to hold the iPhone 7 back until spring 2016, thus shifting the iPhone to a spring launch schedule going forward.
If Apple opts not to launch a new iPhone this spring alongside the iWatch, that guarantees a new model in the fall. However in this scenario Apple must still decide whether to launch just the iPhone 6S this fall and save the iPhone 7 for next fall, retaining its traditional twelve month cycle, or whether to launch the iPhone 7 and 6S both this fall. The latter would give Apple’s most ardent consumers what they’ve been asking for, which is the opportunity to buy a fully redesigned new model every year, bypassing the S models. It would also allow Apple to position the iPhone 6S as the new midrange model, making the iPhone 6 the free-with-contract model.