A new survey from Loup Ventures finds Apple iPhone users are falling into a predictable upgrade cycle, with 22 percent of current owners planning to purchase a next-generation version of the handset this year.
According to analyst Gene Munster, survey responses suggest Apple's iPhone business is trending toward lower growth, but higher predictability.
In its survey of 511 people, Loup Ventures found 226 iPhone owners, of which 22 percent are looking to upgrade to a new iPhone model expected for release this fall. The numbers compare to 23 percent last year, when Apple was widely rumored to launch iPhone X, and 15 percent two years ago with iPhone 7.
In addition to the 22 percent who intend to buy Apple's latest iPhone model, another 20 percent expect to upgrade to an iPhone 8 or iPhone X within the next year, bringing the total share of potential upgraders up to 42 percent.
Reviewing data over the past two years, Munster concludes iPhone growth will soon settle into a predictable pattern, rising between 1 to 5 percent annually.
"We expect investors will increasingly view the iPhone hardware business as a subscription business, given the upgrade patterns are becoming more predictable," Munster writes. "This is also consistent with current Street expectations of 4 percent iPhone unit growth in FY18 and 2 percent in FY19."
That said, the survey "did not capture" recent rumors of a jumbo-sized "iPhone X Plus," which is anticipated to launch alongside a revamped iPhone X and a lower priced LCD variant. Rumblings of the 6.5-inch OLED iPhone first surfaced last September, with more recent reports claiming the device will pack an edge-to-edge screen, TrueDepth camera system, "A12" processor and potentially dual SIM slots into a chassis similar in size to an iPhone 8 Plus.
Munster notes screen size bumps generally equate to an uptick in intent to buy, though "iPhone X Plus" rumors have yet to make mainstream news. While a so-called iPhone "supercycle" is not out of the question, for now the firm is sticking with a conservative outlook of 3 percent iPhone growth for fiscal 2019, down from 7 percent in 2018.