Based on supply chain chatter and testimony from knowledgeable industry sources, Apple plans to begin production of preliminary test builds of the next generation iPhone.
Expected to be called either iPhone 5S or iPhone 6, these test builds may begin surfacing sometime in March. Jefferies analyst Peter Misek is the latest well-known and credible industry analyst to weigh in on the matter. According to Misek, March is when the next-gen iPhone will enter production.
This will lay the groundwork, Misek says, for a mass-market introduction of the new phone sometime in late spring or early summer. For months we've been hearing that Apple will not wait until fall 2013 to release the next iPhone. In fact, the 2013 calendar year may deliver more than one iPhone refresh.
All told, two models will likely be tested inside of the next eight weeks. One will be a full-scale next generation refresh. The other will be a more modest, entry-level device similar to the iPad mini, Misek says.
On rumors of an entry level iPhone, Misek said he expects a concentrated low-cost iPhone rather than a "cheap" one. Likely specs, according to Misek: polycarbonite case with 4" non-Retina display and no LTE. We believe a new low-cost iPhone would increase Apple's share, decrease GM, but have little impact on EPS.