(image by Eric Risberg/AP)
Scott Martin, USA TODAY
SAN FRANCISCO -- Get your beach chair and sunscreen ready for the next iPhone launch circus at the Apple Store. Or don't.
That's the question facing consumers over a next iPhone debut, presumably dubbed the iPhone 5S, or the mountain of alternative mobile devices.
Apple is getting ready to crank up production on its next iPhone, according to a report. The device would be available for a possible summer launch, according to The Wall Street Journal report, citing people familiar with the device's production.
This iPhone launch is like no other. Apple's stock has languished far below its $705.07 all-time trading high and sentiment has turned negative on the company whose stock is down 39% as rivals stage endless mobile assaults.
Apple's next iPhone is coming along as electronics behemoth Samsung has shown off its next-generation Galaxy S4, expected available near the end of April. And consumer choices are vastly expanding, with HTC's One phone also slated for April and BlackBerry's Q10 keyboard-sporting phone expected around April or May.
And if that's not enough, Facebook on Thursday is expected to trot out an HTC phone that runs Android and showcases its social network.
"It's almost like the smartphone makers are behaving like movie releases to make sure they can find a slot to not launch on top of the other guy," says Gartner analyst Van Baker.
All of this competition, of course, is good news for consumers. Heated battles for buyers means mobile phone makers will be pulling out ever-more stops to woo customers with new features.
Still, Apple's next iPhone is reported to be similar in shape and size, raising questions about its innovative edge. Also, Apple is working with manufacturers on a lower-priced iPhone that could be released in the second half of the year, according to the report, a move that would squeeze margins lower and could threaten profits.
"I think Apple is going to do this," Baker says. "I don't know that it's going to be constrained to the Asia market, similar to what they did with the iPad Mini."
That unit would likely offer a different casing from the current iPhone line's aluminum body. Apple has also reportedly been working on different colors, a move that would fall in line with its iPod flavors.
Apple's iOS mobile phone operating system is under attack from Google's Android, adopted by an army of mobile makers offering lower-cost phones. That's helped, in part, by Android being available under free licensing terms.
Gooogle's Android took 70% of worldwide smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared with Apple's 21%.
Shares of Apple rose 89 cents to $429.80 in trading on Tuesday.
Apple declined comment on the Journal report.