Is Apple Without Steve Jobs Experiencing Design Turmoil?

Among analysts, predicting what Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) will do next is like sport. Everyone weighs in but most are wrong, usually to the benefit of investors who profit from a muscular Mac maker beating up on flimsy expectations.

Analyzing Apple's product strategy is an equally passionate pastime for the tech press. And no device is subject to more scrutiny than the iPhone, which now ranks as the top-selling smartphone in the U.S., according to NPD data.

What's the rumor mill say now? Let's turn to CNET's News.com, which helpfully organizes projections by the date they were made. Among the more recent ruminations:

  • Touch-panel shipments will fall at least 15% over the next several months as Apple prepares to ship a new handset sometime in the fall. (Source: DigiTimes.)
  • iPhone 5 will be taller and thinner, mimicking fashionable Android handsets from the likes of Samsung and HTC. A new dock connector may also be in the works. (Source: iLounge.)
  • Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) is planning fall releases for both the new iPhone and HTC's latest handset. (Source: Boy Genius Report.)

Earlier rumors suggest that the iPhone's SIM card design will change little from what's already in the 4S, while others say Version 5 will be made from the composite material Liquidmetal, created and marketed by tiny Liquidmetal Technologies (OTC: LQMT.PK).

Yet while design rumors vary, there's near universal agreement on the shipping date for iPhone 5: sometime in October. Given Apple's history of strategically leaking product details to favored reporters in exchange for favorable press -- a staple of the Steve Jobs era -- I suspect at least a plurality of the rumors come from internal sources.

The implication? While most of Apple's team agrees there's going to be a new iPhone in the fall, they've yet to decide the design or feature set. And that could be a problem, especially since the new iCandy will be competing with the highly regarded Lumia handset from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) and Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) , which is now available in 48 markets. Distribution should improve even more by the time the holiday shopping season rolls around. Apple needs to get organized, soon.

Or does it? My read of the tea leaves is just as likely to be inaccurate as any other. Either way, next month's Worldwide Developers Conference is an important time for Apple. Consumers, developers, and investors alike will be anxiously waiting details of the new iPhone -- the stock could tumble if CEO Tim Cook and his team fail to provide them.

Think I'm wrong? Is Apple too volatile a stock for your portfolio? Fair enough. There are plenty more options for safe growth, including these nine rock-solid dividend payers.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's Web home, portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Apple and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Google, Nokia, and Microsoft and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (11)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2012, at 4:01 AM, ConstableOdo wrote:

    Highly regarded Lumia won't compete in the same price range as the next iPhone. As for design, Jony Ive will hopefully put something together that's attractive and functional.

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2012, at 6:40 AM, luxetlibertas wrote:

    With not a single new design at Apple over an extended period, the iPad 3 comes closest with a sub-mm thickness change, I'm getting a bit worried about what they're actually getting done at the moment.

    Every single product, except for the iPad, is waiting (or overdue) for a significant refresh.

    Together with new versions of Mac OSX and iOS within a month now, it seems a lot should be happening in an uncomfortably short time.

    Maybe not the best planning...

    And the results from the current quarter will reflect this I'm afraid.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2012, at 7:56 AM, haysdb wrote:

    It seems people are always expecting more than what Apple delivers, and yet every new iPhone, iPad, iPod, MacBook, iMac, Mac Mini, and Apple TV bring substantive if incremental improvements. This is the Apple way. The next iPhone will not be made of liquid metal. When it's announced, the tech press will go on about how it brings nothing new, and yet consumers will make it the best selling iPhone yet. Steady, relentless, incremental improvement. The products we love just keep getting better and better.

    I doubt that ANY of the "leaks" about the next iPhone are either intentional or from Apple. Not this soon.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2012, at 2:02 PM, jrmart wrote:

    Did anybody listen to Tim Cook at the IPAD intro when he mentioned all the fabulous new products that Apple will introducing this year? Right now, Nokia and Microsoft are lightyears behind Apple. Too bad most of the old die hard PC users don't really understand what Apple has done. It's not about the new bells and whistles on another ME2 smartphone, it's all about the fully integrated totally wireless system solution from Apple. When I enter in a new contact, or a new appointment, a photo, etc. in any of my Apple products, it automatically and wirelessly updates realtime all my other Apple IPHONES, IPADS, IMACS, MACBOOKS etc.. The combination of ITUNES, ICLOUD, IPHONES, IPADS, software, etc. all working together seamlessly from Apple is what it's all about. Please stop touting all these other stand alone ME2 products because basically they just can't compete with the Apple eco system. Apple didn't become the world's largest company by selling another ME2 product.

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