Will iPhone 5 chatter hurt Apple's sales?

Will consumers hold off on purchasing a new iPhone because they think the iPhone 5 is coming out?

Love 'em or hate 'em, iPhone gossip is the chief sustenance of tech bloggers and journalists, many of whom scrutinize the credibility of every rumor, no matter how preposterous. The reason? Page views, of course. You see, readers love iPhone rumors--perhaps even more than they love griping about them.

In short, iPhone rumors are very, very good for the bottom lines of mainstream and tech news sites. They may not be so good for Apple itself, however. In the quarter leading up to last year's launch of the iPhone 4S, Apple's iPhone sales fell 16 percent from the previous (third) quarter.

On the bright side, fourth quarter iPhone sales were up 21 percent from same quarter a year earlier, so the overall trend was positive.

What caused the short-term drop? Apple execs blamed the endless drumbeat of iPhone rumors in the months leading up to the iPhone 4S's launch in October 2011. The company speculated that customers held off on buying an iPhone until the latest model arrived.

This Year's Model

Could history repeat itself this year? Quite likely. The scenario is familiar: Months of heated speculation; rampant rumors about features and specs; insider leaks; grainy photos purportedly of next-gen prototypes; and an expected fall launch date.

If iPhone sales drop before the new model arrives, well, we'll know why. But if history repeats itself, any iPhone sales slump will be short-lived. In the first quarter of 2012, the new iPhone 4S was the main reason why Apple's phone sales reached an all-time record of 37.04 million units.

One thing's for certain: This year's iPhone scuttlebutt can't touch the drama of two years ago, when former Gizmodo editor Jason Chen bought an iPhone 4 prototype in March 2010 and revealed it online, thereby spoiling Apple's launch-day surprise.

There's still time left, though! The blogosphere can only hope...

Contact Jeff Bertolucci at Today@PCWorld, Twitter (@jbertolucci) or jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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Jeff Bertolucci

PC World (US online)
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