Historically, Apple has seen a drop-off in iPhone sales — less so for the iPad — in the quarter preceding the one in which everyone expects new models to debut. People, especially the most committed Apple customers, know that Apple launches new iPhones once a year, and as that date approaches — both analysts anticipate a September introduction again this year — they postpone purchases, even after their carrier contracts have expired.
"We definitely see it in our data," said Milanesi of the consumer polls that Kantar regularly conducts. "We start to see that users are ready for something new, no matter what device they own."
In 2013, Apple unveiled the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C on Sept. 10, and began selling the new smartphones on Sept. 20. The corresponding dates this year would be Sept. 9 — a Tuesday — and Sept. 19, a Friday.
Gottheil foresaw a larger-than-usual postponement of iPhone purchases this year than last, and not only because Apple usually makes changes to the handset's exterior in even-numbered years.
"The iPhone 6 has bigger expectations than the previous models," said Gottheil about the drumbeat of rumors and leaks that point to at least one, perhaps two, models with larger-sized screens. "The level of the fall-off will show what kind of resilience the iPhone has."
Gottheil also predicted that Apple would dissemble if the iPhone number came in lower than expected by again trotting out the purchase delay argument. "It will be interesting to see whether they make those excuses or just come clean and say, 'Well, now we're in a slow growth part of the year.'"
Apple will start today's earnings call at 2 p.m. PT, 5 p.m. ET. Anyone can listen to the audio-only webcast from an iPhone or iPad, a Mac running OS X Snow Leopard or later, or a Windows PC equipped with QuickTime 7 or above.
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