iPad 3 production begins, iPhone takes UK top spot

By Jonny Evans

iPad 3 development continues with an explosion at a Pegatron factory hinting at some production challenges as Apple [AAPL] speeds toward the anticipated March 2012 launch of the new device. In other news, iPhone is a success, grabbing over a third of all UK mobile sales in recent weeks as Santa prepares to leave iPhones under several thousand trees this season.

[ABOVE: Apple's latest iPhone ad. It shows Santa using Siri. Does this mean Siri also knows if you've been good or if you've been bad? Somehow that's a little weird.]

This year it's an iPhone Christmas

Yet more UK research shows the iPhone is leading the charge this season. Apple has three main varieties of the device: the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS, each available in different capacities. With five handsets in GfK's top handsets list, Apple leads the pack.

The Financial Times reports these multiple versions of the iPhone accounted for over 37 percent of mobile sales in the UK and took five of the top 15 spots in the first week of December. Smartphone ownership nearly doubled in the UK between February 2010 and August 2011 to 46 percent, Ofcom figures claim.

GfK's figures compiles sales data from all the main carriers. Samsung/Android fans will be interested to learn the Galaxy II took the number two slot; and the news for RIM isn't appalling -- three variants of the BlackBerry Curve were among the top ten handsets. Nokia's new Lumia phone failed to make the top ten in the four weeks until December 9.

It will be interesting to take a look at US smartphone sales data once it emerges. I'm convinced we'll see a similar pattern as Apple moves to reclaim the number one smartphone crown, loaned to Samsung during the most recent iPhone model transition. There's even a chance iPhone sales could crush all existing estimates.

Screen_shot_2011-07-25_at_14_40_16.jpg

[ABOVE: This represents iPod nano sales once Apple moved to update the product in Q4. This is likely to represent future iPhone sales patterns at this time of year, should the company maintain consistent release dates.]

iPad 3 production begins?

With the iPad 3 and its high-res display, faster processor and potential inclusion of a new Thunderbolt port heading to the shelves, Apple's season of goodwill seems set to continue.

The company seems unlikely to lose its tablet industry lead. Over 40 percent of smartphones owners who use RIM, Windows or Android phones prefer Apple's iPad to tablets from their current smartphone operating system makers, a survey claims (as reported by Forbes).

The Trefis team writes: "We believe the iPad 3 will be a high performance iPad with some attractive features such as voice recognition service Siri, presently an important feature of iPhone 4S. The new iPad might also have high resolution screen as suggested by a few reports."

Apple supplier Pegatron suffered an explosion this weekend, in which 61 workers got hurt. The facility is understood to be being re-tooled for a new product refresh in 3-4 months, approximate to the anticipated schedule for release of the iPad 3.

Pegatron Chief Financial Officer Charles Lin told Reuters: "The factory has not started operations yet. Part of the facility is still under pre-operation inspection and part is running trial production." This hints at a new production line scheduled to become operational just in time for the speculated upon March iPad refresh. Potentially.

Production of Apple's new tablets has been pushed forward in factories owned by Apple suppliers, ahead of Chinese New Year on January 22-28. Initial production is thought to be in the region of 1-1.5 million, according to various reports.

Despite published statements to the contrary, it remains to be seen if the explosion at a plant thought to be producing iPad 3 casings will affect Apple's intended introduction schedule, or if it will delay launch of the device.

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