Updated from 8:37 a.m. to include additional information about the A7 and M7 chips on the second page.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's no secret that Apple's (AAPL) biggest revenue engine is the iPhone. With the iPhone 5s and 5c on the market for nearly six months now, all eyes are turning towards the iPhone 6. That may come sooner than you think, according to one analyst.
Jefferies analyst Peter Misek, who rates Apple shares "buy" with a $625 price target, believes the next version of the iPhone, which he calls the iPhone 6, is due for a late summer release. "Our checks indicate Apple is trying to improve yields and cost down the On-Cell screens for the iPhone 6," Misek wrote in the note. "Additionally, we believe Apple is working on significant modifications to the camera module processor and potentially a new co-processor alongside the M7 for biometrics and sensors related to health. We believe these modifications require more time and as a result a late summer launch is now more likely."
There's been speculation that Apple would move away from naming the next iPhone using a number, and instead, refer to it as the iPhone Air, following the successful launch of the iPad Air.
As Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple's revenue growth slows, it's increasingly looking to new products, and ways to enhance additional products, to boost growth. Misek believes the next iPhone cycle is going to be a "significant product cycle," with the next version of the iPhone being much larger than the current 4-inch screen on the iPhone 5s and 5c. In the past Apple CEO Timothy D. Cook has said that Apple would not rule out making a larger iPhone, but is not willing to make the tradeoff for a larger screen until the resolution quality is there.
Apple's fiscal first-quarter revenue from the iPhone was $32.498 billion, up just 6% year-over-year. On Apple's earnings call, Cook blamed the weakness on North America. "Our North American business contracted somewhat year over year," Cook said on the earnings call. "And if you look at the reason for this, one was that as we entered the quarter, and forecasted our iPhone sales, where we achieved what we thought, we actually sold more iPhone 5Ss than we projected." He also noted that the recent carrier upgrade policy changes affected sales, and will likely have some effect this quarter as well.
With Samsung's recent launch of the Galaxy S5, Misek believes that monthly builds for the Google (GOOG) Android-run S5 will have lower monthly builds than its predecessor, which may benefit Apple. "We believe the combination of pent-up demand for a larger iPhone and possibly less intense competition from Samsung bodes well for the iPhone 6 launch."
Various industry reports, blogs, and initial leaked photos have suggested that the next version of the iPhone will have no bezel, giving users more screen to work with. Reports have also corroborated with Misek's theory of a larger screen for the next iPhone, with some suggesting Apple may make two phones, one with a 4.7-inch display, and another with a 5.5-inch display.
There's also increased speculation about the glass Apple is using for its next iDevices, potentially making them unbreakable. Apple has contracted GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT) for its sapphire plant. The company recently gave 2014 guidance, and said it expects revenue to be back-loaded towards the second half of 2014, also adding credence to Misek's theory about an iPhone coming in the summer, or potentially later.
It's possible that the next version of the iPhone uses sapphire for its glass, as sapphire is one of the hardest and most scratch-resistant minerals on Earth.
Apple is likely to include updated versions of its mobile chips. Last year, Apple announced the A7 and M7 chips for the iPhone 5s, with the M7 being used for motion-sensor detection. It's a good bet that Apple unveiled the A8 and M8 chips in the next version of the iPhone, which may lead to a faster phone.
There's also been speculation that the next version of the iPhone would include an integrated modem/wireless local area network (WLAN) using Qualcomm (QCOM) chips, but Misek notes he believes it will stay with Broadcom (BRCM), despite the possibility of Apple saving $3 per iPhone. "While we had hoped for the combo, our Apple estimates do not reflect margin upside from an integrated modem/WLAN. Additionally, we believe that suppliers are continuing to give pricing concessions to Apple, helping margins."
Perhaps the last, and potentially most important thing, about the next iPhone is the inclusion of mobile payments. Cook has talked about mobile payments on the most recent earnings call, noting that was one of the thoughts behind TouchID. "The mobile payments area in general is one that we've been intrigued with, and that was one of the thoughts behind Touch ID," he said on the earnings call. "But we're not limiting ourselves just to that. So I don't have anything specific to announce today, but you can tell by looking at the demographics of our customers and the amount of commerce that goes through iOS devices versus the competition that it's a big opportunity on the platform."
A move into mobile payments could get institutional investors back into the stock, something that's plagued Apple for the better part of two years.
--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York
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