Apple Product Rumors, Part 20,000: The Intersection of Potentially Solid Product Intel and Common Sense

Let’s start here:

Let’s assume for fun that the iPhone 5S will be delayed due to the infamous production constraints that always pop up like clockwork, every, single, year. Thankfully, this time we’re looking at late September for Apple’s bread-and-butter flagship iPhone. A couple weeks of delay isn’t the biggest deal in the world.

But let’s assume “iPhone go” (as I like to call it) is ready a couple of weeks earlier.

So…launch iPhone go first and iPhone 5S or whatever later?

Why would Apple want to launch the “lesser” iPhone before the newest iPhone, if the original plan was presumably to launch the two at the same time? Is Apple so desperate for sales that it’ll potentially hamper demand for the flagship? The calculus gets even trickier if iPhone go happens to have more than one price point.

Let’s now assume for fun that iPad 5 is on schedule, but iPad mini “isn’t”. Does anyone seriously think Apple doesn’t have contingency plans? Or that Apple will delay THE most popular iPad by not launching a new iPad mini at least once a year?

And while Ming-Chi Kuo has a pretty decent overall history of predictions and supply chain sources, it’s hard to believe that Apple hasn’t “mastered” the Retina Display just yet. It’s had them since June 2010 (iPhone 4), it’s probably been working with them before that point, it’s made even bigger Retina Displays since then (2880×1800, anyone?), and it’s had a 2048×1536 Retina Display to “shrink down” since March 2012.

Last but not least, a quick comment about iPhone go. A $450-550 iPhone 5-based iPhone doesn’t have to be the only “cheaper option”. The A5 would still be expected to be in play as SoC behind the “$0 iPhone” this year, and A5 + current-gen Retina Display are clearly able to be paired together. There’s that common sense thing again. If Apple is trying to reach the lower end of the market, the venerable iPhone 5 hardware isn’t the only option that’s available for this year.

A few things I’d like analysts to ask about at the Apple Fiscal Q3 2012 conference call tomorrow

1)  Sellthrough numbers for iPhone and iPad.  Apple doesn’t reliably provide these very important data points.  What were they this quarter, what were they in the year-ago fiscal Q4?  That will hopefully generate some follow-up commentary by Oppenheimer and/or Cook by itself – if not, that’s what follow-up questions are for.

2)  Related – color on iPhone/iPad growth and competitiveness.  You could back up smartphone rate of growth stuff before, Apple – but you can’t seem to outperform any longer, at least not right now.  I hope analysts press further on this and get more info from Apple than platitudes about “customer sat”, usage, etc.  Get your “money’s worth” out of the conference call, guys.  You’re there to challenge the reversal of trends that a company used to play up.  If iPad unit sales growth drops off YOY, press for specifics if Oppenheimer doesn’t volunteer them (see:  sellthrough comparisons).

3)  GM strategy.  Tricky, but try your best to get some idea of what’s “normal” moving forward.  Personally, I’d be fine with margins staying about where they are, but if cheaper, new form factor iPhones are on the way, I wouldn’t be surprised to see GM drop further to 33-35%.

4)  OpEx.   It would be nice to get some color from Apple why it keeps going up independent of guided revenue levels – that is, if OpEx is guided higher sequentially.  I have my own theory of course, but getting commentary from the source is infinitely better.

5)  Anything having to do with future products.  (No, of course not, but you know someone will anyway.  Sigh.)