Phone frenzy: expect Hong Kong’s iPhone 8 queues to be around the block

Apple remains tight-lipped ahead of the release, but experts predict features such as augmented reality, a sharper OLED screen and wireless charging will propel record sales and haul in Samsung’s popular Galaxy S8

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 7:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 6:15pm

The most significant update to the iPhone in three years promises not only to upend the smartphone market but Apple’s financial results for several quarters.

On the heels of the iPhone’s 10th anniversary last month, and before Apple unveils its new models in September, analysts expect flat year-over-year iPhone sales as consumers wait for the revamped phones. After that, however, they expect record-setting sales, dwarfing the success of the wildly popular iPhone 6.

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Angelo Zino, a senior equity analyst at CFRA, predicts record iPhone shipments of 241.5 million units in the 12 months following the launch of the iPhone 8 – smashing the previous high, set by iPhone 6 in late 2014.

Demand for the new iPhone could vault Apple to the top of smartphone sellers worldwide, but it needs to set itself apart in three key areas – its voice assistant Siri, augmented reality and artificial intelligence – according to Tuong Nguyen, an analyst at market researcher Gartner.

Siri, while still the most popular digital assistant, has squandered some of its early lead to rival Google Assistant. On the hardware side, Samsung has already established a beachhead with certain popular features, such as wireless charging and water resistance.

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Apple briefly held the No. 1 spot last year when Samsung’s Note 7 was having its problems, before the South Korean electronics giant retook the lead. (It led Apple, 20.7 per cent to 13.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2017.) Before that, the larger iPhone 6 grabbed the top spot, also briefly.

Anticipation – and stakes – are sky high for what is expected to be an overhaul of iPhone after several years of incremental changes that have left consumers yearning for more and contributed to its first yearly drop in sales.

The iPhone 8 is said to be packed with new features and comes with a fresh design, according to reports. A revamped iPhone is crucial to keep pace with the popular Galaxy S8 and inexpensive smartphones from Chinese vendors, which are taking chunks out of the market share, Nguyen says.

“There is pressure to make the new phone different and unique,” says analyst Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies. He expects augmented reality, which has the potential to be big for businesses involved in home improvement, to give it a distinct advantage.

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The iPhone 8 is believed to feature a redesigned glass back, according to an April report from Bloomberg, and the first significant iPhone design change since 2014’s iPhone 6.

A sharper new OLED screen is expected to cover nearly the entire front of the device with the physical iconic home button becoming a virtual one, similar to what Samsung has done with its Galaxy S8 and S8+ phones. Apple is reportedly working on embedding the TouchID fingerprint sensor, a staple since 2013’s iPhone 5S, into the display as well.

Wireless charging and faster wired charging could be coming to iPhone 8. Wistron, an India-based manufacturer of iPhones, told reporters in June adjustments were being made to allow for assembling phones that were waterproof and supported wireless charging, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

Three models are expected in September or October, but iPhone 8 (sometimes also referred to as the iPhone X or iPhone Pro) is said to be facing production delays and will be available in limited quantities, according to Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst at KGI Securities.

Apple declined to comment on the reports.