Analyst: Apple’s growing iPhone base is increasingly ripe for upgrades

In a note to clients — as noted by AppleInsider — Cowen and Company analyst Timothy Acuri says that continued focus on the upcoming iPhone (probably to be dubbed the “iPhone 7”) and its rumored lack of a major redesign is the wrong way to look at the big picture.

He thinks about a third of the iPhone installed base is currently running iPhone models that are greater than two years old. That's expected to grow to about 43% in the next four or five quarters; that's growth of between 60 million and 70 million.

"In other words, the entire growth of the base — and then some — will be from older units that are ripe for upgrades, especially to a new OLED-enabled form factor," Arcuri says. [An OLED iPhone is — according to the rumor vine — coming next year.”

The analyst estimates that the current installed base is growing by about 70 million units per year, but less than 30 million of those are devices more than two years old. By the end of next year, Arcuri estimates that installed base growth will slow to 45 million units year over year, but the number of devices more than two years old will be growing by between 60 million and 70 million.

He adds that either the "iPhone 7" cycle will prove better than investors fear, or Apple is setting up for a "super cycle" with a major redesign of the iPhone in 2017.

What of the iPhone 7? Here are the most popular prognostications (followed by my thoughts):

  • It will ditch the headphone jack (probably true); 
  • It will tweak the rear camera, which protrudes slightly on the iPhone 6 and 6s, so that it will sit flush with the rear casing, enabled by a thinner camera module (almost certainly true);
  • It will sport a dual-lens rear camera (likely, but perhaps on an iPhone 7 Plus only.
  • It will ditch the 16GB model and add a 250GB model (almost certainly true);
  • It will add a USB-C port, like the 12-inch MacBook (nope, ain’t gonna happen).