Thu, Apr 04, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Summer launch seen for Apple phone: ‘WSJ’

AP, NEW YORK

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) says Apple is set for a possible summer launch of the next iPhone, rather than a fall launch like the last two models.

Apple is also working on a cheaper iPhone model that could win it some market share in developing countries, the paper says. It cited unnamed people “familiar with the device’s production.”

The report is in line with the expectations of company watchers and Wall Street analysts. The iPhone 5 costs around US$600, and while Apple maintains older iPhones in production, even those are not cheap enough to compete effectively against low-end smartphones running Google Inc’s Android software.

Apple does not comment on products before its launch events.

The firm’s stock fell US$1.01, or 0.2 percent, to US$427.90 in afternoon trading on Tuesday, while the NASDAQ was up 0.2 percent. Apple’s stock price is close to its one-year low of US$419, hit a month ago. It’s well off its all-time peak of US$705.07, reached in September last year on the day the iPhone 5 went on sale.

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday dropped Apple off its list of most highly recommended stocks as it joined other analysts in reducing expectations for a company that hasn’t had a revolutionary new product since the iPad in 2010.

Goldman analyst Bill Shope said the iPhone 5, introduced last fall, hasn’t sold as well as he expected. He said Apple now needs some real hits among the products it rolls out during the second half of the year in order to boost the stock price.

Besides taking the company off Goldman’s “Americas Conviction List,” which it had been on since December 2010, Shope lowered Apple’s price target on the shares to US$575, from US$660. However, he kept a “Buy” rating for the company.

Compared with competitors such as Samsung Electronics Co, Apple has appeared inflexible, refusing to vary the size and cost of the iPhone.

Shope, though, joins other analysts in saying he expects a cheaper iPhone debuting around the third quarter, which could help drive growth in developing countries.

The firm may also get a boost if it comes out with an iPhone with a larger screen, but Shope said that so far there’s little evidence Apple is looking to release one this year.

Shope also said he’s expecting Apple to improve the full-size iPad. That could slow some of the loss of sales to the cheaper iPad Mini, which was released last fall. The analyst said that the smaller tablet has been more successful than he expected and that this may permanently shift the focus of Apple’s iPad line toward this smaller size.

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