A key Apple supplier has revealed that its largest North American customer is gearing up for the launch of a next-generation smartphone, suggesting Apple could be in the midst of preparing for a September launch of its next iPhone.
The comments come from Avago Technologies, the maker of custom wireless chips featured in Apple's iPhone lineup. Analyst Maynard Um of Wells Fargo Securities interpreted them on Thursday as "signs of life" in Apple's supply chain, and an indication of a likely September launch for a so-called "iPhone 5S."
"Avago noted it is already seeing an initial ramp of a new product transition (we believe iPhone 5S) and expects a greater ramp in the following quarter (October quarter)," Um wrote in a note to investors. "We anticipate more positive supply chain news from Apple suppliers through the summer and as we get closer to product launch."
The details put Apple's next iPhone on track to launch a year after the iPhone 5, as that device was officially unveiled on Sept. 12 of last year. While some optimistic market watchers had hoped that Apple would launch its "iPhone 5S" at a sooner date, company CEO Tim Cook softened those expectations with comments made last month, when he signaled that major new products would arrive this fall.
Wells Fargo has maintained its "outperform" rating for AAPL stock, with a share valuation range of $485 to $525.
As for Apple's next-generation iPhone hardware, well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has claimed that Apple plans to embed a fingerprint sensor beneath the home button on its next handset. This addition would allow users to bypass manual password entry, and could even open up the possibility of new functionality such as secure e-wallet transactions.
Apple first signaled its interest in fingerprint scanning technology when it acquired Florida-based AuthenTec last year. That company's flagship product was a "Smart Sensor" component that reads fingerprints and can be embedded into devices such as smartphones.