Amid circulating rumors of a larger display for the iPhone, Jeffries analyst Peter Misek today reported that he does not see the device launching until mid-2014. Misek argues that problems with display yield and substantial other changes for the iPhone 6 will make a 2013 launch unlikely. Some rumors had suggested that Apple might be able to launch an iPhone 5S and a lower-cost iPhone in mid-2013 and follow with a larger iPhone as soon as late this year.
We see three possible bottlenecks for the iPhone that could contribute to lower yields (and hence higher costs) and/or a delayed launch.
- App processor production at 20nm. Apple’s current iPhone app processor is on 32nm. For the iPhone 6 we think Apple will likely skip over 28nm and go to 20nm to facilitate adding more cores (4 or even 8). While TSMC is targeting a 2014 ramp in its 20nm production we think that issues like double patterning could make it a more complicated transition than the 28nm ramp, which had its own substantial ramp and yield issues.
- Display shifting from in-cell LCD to on-cell OLED or IGZO. We think in- cell is having difficulty ramping to 4.8”, which is making Apple look at switching to on-cell (a different integrated touchscreen technology) and OLED (despite Apple’s suppliers being well behind Samsung in their OLED capabilities) or IGZO.
- Revamped OS. We think Apple plans to re-architect iOS to utilize more cores and better compete with Samsung. Also, we believe the way iOS interoperates with iCloud, gestures controls, and advertising will be substantially upgraded.
Misek first noted the existence of 4.8-inch iPhone prototypes in December, but last month indicated that he was seeing no further signs of the device. The larger iPhone appears to have now returned to his radar but with a longer time horizon than originally thought.
Overall, Misek sees his claimed television product event coming next month with the iPhone 5S and lower-cost iPhone following in the June/July timeframe. He does not see any iPad updates until the fall, when both the full-size iPad and the iPad mini would be updated around the same time as the launch of the Apple television set.