Apple Inc.'s iPhone 6 May Cost More, but Consumers Appear Undeterred

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) has pricing power. Among its peers, Apple's impressive ability to charge premium prices is arguably the envy of the industry. Across its product lines, the company has consistently been able to charge higher prices while still moving inventory at levels few manufacturers can match. But what if Apple took advantage of its pricing power by raising the price of its flagship iPhone? Could Apple pull it off?

Quite possibly -- Apple is rumored to launch a bifurcated line-up of iPhones with larger displays (allegedly measuring 4.7 and 5.7 inches) this year, and demand appears to be hot. Combining expectations for a huge spike in upgrades and several surveys that indicate consumers may be undeterred by the rumored $100 price increase for Apple's speculated 5.7-inch iPhone 6 model, the move could make a lot of sense.

MacRumors renderings, by Ferry Passchier, of the alleged 4.7-inch and 5.7-inch sixth generation iPhone lineup. Photo used with permission.

The surveys
The most recent survey on consumers and their willingness to pay a higher price for the next-generation iPhone comes from research from Raymond James analyst Tavis McCourt, via MarketWatch. McCourt says a higher price for a bigger iPhone won't be driving fans away. In fact, he believes a growing number of users are willing to pay up an extra $100 for the device.

"Our June consumer survey points to continued growth in the willingness of iPhone users to pay $100 more for a bigger screened iPhone, with now a full one-third of survey respondents willing to pay a $100 premium," McCourt said in a research note.

A lesser-known recent survey by coupon website WalletHero also makes the case that iPhone buyers may not be very concerned about price. Based on responses from 1,500 people, the survey measured the importance of new iPhone 6 features to consumers. While the results were mostly unsurprising, one aspect of the results stood out.

WalletHero's Brennan Sayre explained:

Most of the data from our survey wasn't surprising as we know most consumers want a larger screen and longer battery life. The one piece of data that was very interesting is that price doesn't seem to be a major factor in their decision to buy or upgrade to the latest iPhone.

For perspective, 97% of respondents said longer battery life was important, and only 35% said they would like to see a lower price. In fact, more people respondents wanted a microSD, or removable flash storage, than a lower price.

With Apple potentially considering a $100 boost to the price of its 5.7-inch version of the iPhone 6, it's good to hear price isn't among the most important factors to prospective buyers of the phone.

Hot demand
Demand for the larger iPhone looks solid, according to McCourt. In fact, "[D]ata seems to suggest meaningful demand for a larger screen, which should logically mean the iPhone 6-cycle will be strong for upgrade sales," McCourt explained.

A number of other sources are expecting a bigger upgrade cycle for the iPhone 6 than the iPhone 5.

Consider ISI analyst Brian Marshal, via MacRumors, who expects a whopping 13% to 15% percent of the installed base of iPhone users to upgrade to the iPhone 6:

"Large-screen envy" is prevalent among the iPhone installed base and we believe a ~5" form-factor iPhone would spark a massive upgrade cycle as well as many "Android switchers" returning back to the iPhone (we refer to this as the "mother lode" of all Apple upgrade cycles).

The sweet combination of big demand for an iPhone with a larger display and Apple's pricing power with consumers makes this a great time for Apple to try higher pricing for its 5.7-inch iPhone 6 model. And if Apple can pull it off, the implications for the business could be huge; iPhones account for a whopping 57% of Apple's total revenue.

On the flipside, a price increase obviously means Apple risks losing too many potential upgraders and new iPhone buyers to justify the increase. But the risk seems small in light of the already proven demand for smartphones with larger displays. And as Apple's lineup of older iPhones grows stronger, there are a growing number of solid alternatives for consumers who want a lower-priced iPhone.

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