Report: Apple asks suppliers to make up to 90M new iPhones by year-end

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) apparently didn't get the memo that this year will be a yawn in terms of a new iPhone model, since it is expected to come without a major redesign. The company is preparing for another blowout iPhone release this fall, according to a new Wall Street Journal report, and it expects demand for this year's models to outpace those of last year.

The report, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter in Apple's supply chain, said Apple is asking its suppliers to manufacture between 85 million and 90 million units combined of two new iPhone models with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays by Dec. 31. The screen sizes are identical to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The WSJ notes that in 2014 Apple ordered a then-record initial production run of 70 million to 80 million iPhone units. Apple sold 74.5 million total iPhones in the first quarter of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus's availability.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment, according to the report.

In the first two quarters of its fiscal year, which ends at the end of September, Apple sold 135.6 million iPhones, a 43 percent increase year-over-year and a testament to its decision to follow Android and Windows phones by offering phones with larger screens. Before last year, Apple had limited screen size on the iPhone to a 4-inch display. 

Apple is betting that seemingly minor hardware changes and new software features like its "Proactive Assistant" digital assistant will be enough to woo consumers. The Journal reported that new iPhone models will sport Apple's "Force Touch" feature, which can sense how hard users are pressing down on a screen. Bloomberg reported late last month that Apple had started its production run of phones with the technology. Apple is already using Force Touch technology in its latest MacBook and in Apple Watch.

Apple is expected to keep the screen resolution for the new phones about the same, and may offer a fourth color for the aluminum casing of the iPhone, in addition to silver, gold and space gray, the report said.

To help produce the new phones, Apple is considering a third assembler, Wistron Corp., the report said in addition to Hon Hai Precision Industry (better known as Foxconn) and Pegatron. Adding a third supplier could help Apple avoid long shipping delays for consumers who pre-order the new phones, as happened last year. Wistron started manufacturing the older iPhone 5C model last year when Pegatron shifted to make the iPhone 6, the report added.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this 9to5 Mac article
- see this The Verge article

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