Survey signals unprecedented demand for iPhone 5

ChangeWave poll says 31% of North American consumers likely to buy Apple's next smartphone

Advance demand for Apple's next iPhone is at an all-time high, said a research firm today, predicting huge sales later this year for what most have dubbed the "iPhone 5."

A survey of more than 4,000 North American consumers by ChangeWave Research showed a record enthusiasm for Apple's next-generation smartphone, with nearly a third saying they were likely to buy one.

"Advance demand for the 'iPhone 5' is strikingly higher than we've seen for any previous iPhone model," said Paul Carton, ChangeWave's vice president of research, in an abbreviated report sent via email.

Of the people polled, 14% said they were "very likely" to buy a new iPhone for themselves or a family member, while 17% asserted that they were "somewhat likely" to do so.

ChangeWave described the next iPhone in broad terms, incorporating the speculation that's centered on a slightly-larger screen and a connection to the faster LTE mobile data networks, as well as the near-certainty that it will be powered by iOS 6, the next version of Apple's operating system.

Apple's current model, the iPhone 4S, does not support LTE, although the company added it to the new iPad, which debuted last March.

The 31% total of those who said they were likely to buy the iPhone 5 was 44% higher than the 21.5% who answered the same way in a survey ChangeWave conducted last year just before the launch of the iPhone 4S.

"The biggest finding of the survey is the unprecedented level of advance demand for the next generation Apple iPhone, which based on these survey numbers easily dwarfs the advance demand of any previous iPhone launch," said Carton.

Apple does not disclose individual iPhone model sales, but in the two quarters reported since the Oct. 4, 2011, launch of the iPhone 4S, the company has sold 72.1 million iPhones, its best-ever six-month stretch.

Apple will reveal its second-quarter sales figures tomorrow at 2 p.m. PT during an earnings call with Wall Street analysts.

The survey results meshed with financial analysts' expectations for the iPhone 5, or whatever Apple calls the next model. Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets, for instance, has forecast iPhone calls in 2012's final quarter -- the one during the putative launch of the smartphone -- at 44.7 million units, or 21% more than the previous best of 12 months earlier.

ChangeWave also asked consumers their thoughts on the Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone, which went on sale last month.

Of the people polled, 2% said they were very likely to buy a Galaxy S III "in the future," with another 7% acknowledging that they were somewhat likely to do so.

According to Carton, the top reason why those consumers said they would buy the Samsung smartphone was the size and quality of the screen.

Yesterday, Samsung revealed that it had sold 10 million Galaxy S III handsets globally in its first two months of availability, a mark the preceding Galaxy S II took five months to reach.

When all Samsung phones are taken into account, the Asian company's fortunes are even brighter: 19% of those polled who said they were planning on buying a smartphone in the next 90 days selected Samsung as the maker.

That's an all-time high for Samsung in ChangeWave's tracking, and nearly four times that of a year ago.

Other smartphone makers scored poorly in ChangeWave's latest survey, with just 4% of those polled citing Motorola and 3% HTC as their vendor of choice. Motorola, which is now owned by Google, was down two percentage points from a March poll, while HTC was flat.

Nokia, which has tied its success to Microsoft's Windows Phone mobile operating system, was up one point from March to 2%, said Carton.

The dominance of Apple and Samsung -- especially the former -- among consumers planning future smartphone purchases pointed to a two-horse race at this point, said Carton.

"The huge wave of pent-up demand for the coming iPhone launch has important implications for the rest of the industry ... and puts a number of second-tier smartphone manufacturers at increased risk of coming in below plan for the year," Carton said.

Apple has not announced when it will launch the next iPhone, much less its name or feature set. Most experts, however, expect the company to follow the same schedule as last year. Apple introduced the iPhone 4S on Oct. 4, 2011, and started selling the device on Oct. 14.

If the company hews to the 2011 timetable, it would announce the new iPhone Oct 2, 2012, and kick off sales Oct. 12.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Read more about smartphones in Computerworld's Smartphones Topic Center.

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