In his message to investors, financial analyst Scott Craig points to channel investigations which show an iPhone capable of faster, third-generation cellular Internet access produced in small numbers in May, with a larger number surfacing in June as Apple prepares a formal rollout for the new device.
"This likely implies a launch announcement in [the second calendar quarter]," Craig says.
Apple is also likely to significantly increase its iPhone production compared to its most recent full quarter. While iPhone production during the holidays totaled 2.3 million, the Bank of America researcher estimates about three million 2G and 3G iPhones made during the spring quarter and a much larger eight or more million during the summer. Each additional million units sold could add about $400 million to Apple's bottom line, Craig notes.
Simultaneous reports on Friday supported the analyst's statements., with the Taiwanese Commercial Times paper alleging that bidding is underway for 3G iPhone manufacturing while Dow Jones ventured so far as to claim that Hon Hai had already won a contract for production of an advanced model.
The investigations of the supply chain have been enough to warrant a significant rethink of longer-term predictions for 2008. As Apple may now produce the same eight million iPhones in one quarter that analysts have been predicting for the entire year, previous estimates are now "starting to look too conservative," according to Craig.
The expert maintained existing forecasts for the rest of Apple's lineup. iPod shipments are estimated to drop by several percentage points year over year for the first quarter, dipping below 10 million units, while a combination of the MacBook Air and refreshes to existing portables is tagged as a likely upside for computer sales.