Apple will reportedly release the iPhone 7 a bit earlier than expected next year, departing from its tried and true 12-month refresh cycle in the process. This eyebrow-raising rumor comes to us courtesy of AppleInsider who, citing a reliable source, claims that Apple is angling to complete iPhone 7 development ahead of schedule.
Historically, Apple has always released new iPhone models in 12-months intervals. The only exception to this pattern was the iPhone 4s which was released a good 16 months following the iPhone 3GS. With respect to that delay, it’s widely believed that the product launch was pushed back due to some last-minute kinks with Siri, which, if you recall, was the iPhone 4s’ flagship feature.
So why the early upgrade for the iPhone 7 in 2016?
This year’s iPhone 6s upgrade features largely the same external design as the iPhone 6. That has prompted concerns among investors that demand for the iPhone 6s could wane, particularly toward the tail end of the product cycle, as consumers await a new-look “iPhone 7” next year.
Launching the “iPhone 7” in an earlier window of 2016 would be one way for Apple to address those concerns, and to help avoid a potential year-over-year decrease in sales as the iPhone 6s product cycle winds down.
It’s an interesting theory, to be sure, but there are a few points to consider before taking this rumor at face value. First, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen reports suggesting that Apple might release a new iPhone model early. And thus far, none of them have ever panned out. Second, releasing a new iPhone model ahead of schedule might stir up some resentment among more recent iPhone 6s buyers. Down the line, a shortened refresh cycle might adversely affect iPhone 7 sales as people will similarly expect an iPhone 7s launch to come sooner than expected. Third, Apple’s iPhone refresh cycle is well-known at this point, and so far, iPhone sales seem to be doing just fine. In fact, they’re stronger than they’ve ever been before.
Interestingly enough, AI’s report comes hot on the heels of a research report from well-regarded analyst Ming-Chi Kuo who, if you recall, recently issued a note claiming that Apple has plans to release a 4-inch iPhone model sometime during the first half of 2016.
That being the case, perhaps its possible that both AppleInsider and Kuo are referencing the same device. Which is to say, perhaps Apple will release an enhanced 4-inch iPhone model earlier in the year, only to be followed by a traditional September launch of the highly-anticipated iPhone 7.