Two new iPhone models -- including a lower-priced smartphone similar to the iPhone 3GS – are expected to be introduced at Apple's fall media conference next month, the investment firm Jefferies said Friday. The firm's analysts believe the event tentatively set for Oct. 4 also will "focus on iOS 5 and its cloud-service capabilities."
Among other things, Jefferies expects Apple's new flagship model -- "which could be called the '4S', as Apple appears to have vacillated on the name" -- will sport a higher-resolution camera, a slightly larger screen and have a slimmer profile.
"We also expect the announcement of a lower-priced iPhone that will basically be a lower-cost 3GS," the financial firm's analysts wrote in an investor note.
Rival investment firm Piper Jaffray is predicting that Apple's iPhone unit shipments will grow 81 percent this year in comparison with the iconic device maker's 2010 iPhone sales.
"In the second half of calendar year 2011 specifically, we are modeling for 55 percent year-over-year growth," said Piper Jaffray analyst Andrew Murphy. "[This] factors in an iPhone launch in the second half of 2011 with at least one, and at most two new models."
T-Mobile Deal in Doubt
Apple's iPhone refresh appears to be well positioned to attract the attention of consumers going into this year's holiday shopping season. In the United States, Jefferies expects multiple wireless carriers -- including Sprint -- will begin selling the new iPhone in mid-October, though T-Mobile may not be one of them.
"We had believed that T-Mobile (more than 34 million subscribers) would also carry the iPhone 5 [in the fourth quarter]," Jefferies' analysts wrote. "But now [we] believe this could be delayed, possibly due to the pending AT&T acquisition."
With many mature market economies currently in a tailspin, it remains to be seen whether Apple will be able to handily beat Wall Street's iPhone unit-sales expectations for the latter half of this year. Still, Apple will have plenty of opportunities to grow iPhone sales in largely untapped emerging markets.
"We expect an iPhone launch at China Telecom (more than 108 million subscribers) in [the first quarter of 2012]," Jefferies' analysts wrote.
Chip Patent Dispute
Recent media reports citing sources at companies participating in the iPhone's supply chain suggest that Apple's new flagship model will integrate a dual mode GSM/CDMA baseband chipset from Qualcomm and an 8-megapixel rear camera. What's more, Jefferies said it expects Apple's new flagship iPhone model to feature the same A5 chip found in the iPad 2.
On Thursday, VIA Technologies filed a lawsuit against Apple claiming that the microprocessors deployed in Apple's smartphones, tablet computers, portable media players and other computing devices infringe on two of the chipmaker's patents.
"VIA has built up an extensive IP portfolio consisting of over 5,000 patents as a result of significant investments in world-class technology research and development," said VIA Technologies CEO Wenchi Chen.
"We are determined to protect our interests and the interests of our stockholders when our patents are infringed upon," Chen said.
The patents at issue reportedly cover microprocessor functionality featured in Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod and Apple TV devices. The disputed technologies include the method and apparatus for double-operand load as well as the instruction set for bi-directional conversion and transfer of integer and floating point data, VIA said.