This week, there is an indication that rumors about a potential product introduction delay for the speculated Apple “iPhone8” model may be unfounded. Then again, we have seen this movie before. 

The statement emanates from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, and amplified by a posting appearing on Apple Insider. Kuo’s supply chain monitoring has been frequently cited by Apple followers, and he is noted as being insightful in predicting Apple’s product and supply chain plans.

According to the analyst’s latest report, three iPhone models are to be announced simultaneously in September. However, the so-termed 50th Anniversary Model “iPhone8”, rumored to be priced in excess of $1000, will reportedly be in short supply at time of announcement.

According to Kuo’s estimates, the supply chain is expected to support the production of between 2 to 4 million units in the September-ending quarter, ramping-up to an estimated 45-50 million units by the end of this year. That is obviously a significant production ramp-up in a matter of three months, implying that multiple production lines will be operating around the clock pumping out these smartphones.

That notion is supported by a separate Korean media report, and cited by 9 to 5 Mac, that indicates that OLED LCD producer Samsung Electronics Samsung has been building the world’s largest OLED production plant as it chases further Apple orders. That report indicates that Samsung will by the end of this month, operationalize seven simultaneous production lines to increase capacity output to a reported 700 percent in order to support the model’s ramp-up requirements.

Earlier reports indicate that Apple is reportedly paying LG Electronics, another current LCD supplier, $2.7B for OLED production lines exclusively dedicated to iPhone screens.

Apple is one of few global manufacturers that can support the funding of such an extreme supply chain and manufacturing response.

According to the latest Apple Insider report, the other two models planned for announcement and unveiling in September, the termed “iPhone 7s” and “iPhone 7s Plus” are noted as already in volume production with three color options. The KGI Securities analyst is forecasting that planning for the 4.7 inch “iPhone7s” supports production of between 35-38 million units, and 18-20 million units for the 5.5 inch “iPhone 7s Plus” phones.

Given all of these current production forecasts, Apple product management along with Sales and Operations Planning teams are placing a special emphasis on more anticipating far higher channel and consumer demand for the higher priced “50th Anniversary” model. Recall that during last year’s holiday fulfillment quarter, Apple reported that the supply chain was supply-constrained in meeting consumer holiday orders for the iPhone 7 Plus model, which later recovered in the first-half of this year.

Again, we have seen this movie before. Apple’s marketing and PR teams are masters at creating market hype prior to new releases of iPhones. But 2017 provides a significant added challenge, promoting and managing the correct demand mix among three simultaneously released models, in addition to demand for any existing or phase-out models. Competition among other global-wide smartphone manufacturers such as China local smartphone manufacturers Oppo, Vivo, and Xiomi, along with global manufacturer Samsung which has already released its newest Galaxy 8 model that includes new OLED screen technology.

In the next several months, we all get to observe Apple’s supply chain response and agility in-action.

Bob Ferrari

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