Existing iPhone owners could make the iPhone 7 a big hit

By the time the iPhone 7 lands, more than two-thirds of iPhone owners will be running iPhones that are two or more years old, and these upgraders will buoy sales of the new handset.

While we know nothing official about the next iPhone -- currently expected to be called the iPhone 7 -- all rumors and leaks suggest that it's going to be a pretty mediocre upgrade. But pent-up demand for a new iPhone from the two-thirds of owners who, by the time the new iPhone launches will be running hardware that's two or more years old, might buoy sales.

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Indications that upgrade demand for the iPhone 7 exists comes from Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, who conducted a survey of 400 US iPhone owners regarding the iPhone 7 launch.

Of those surveyed, 14.8 percent have plans to upgrade to the iPhone 7 in the fall, while a further 29 percent said that they might upgrade to the iPhone 7.

Another factor that Munster expects to drive sales is the fact that 67.3 percent of iPhone owners in the US currently have an iPhone 6/6 Plus or older, which means that they will fall into the typical 24-month carrier upgrade window during the iPhone 7 cycle.

Over the 12 months that the iPhone 7 will be on sale, all the following iPhones will be eligible for upgrade.

iPhone 7 could be buoyed by strong upgrade demand

Munster expects the percentage of consumers that plan to upgrade to the iPhone 7 to increase following the announcement.

Munster's track record on Apple has been patchy -- the much-anticipated Apple-branded TV never showed up -- but he's joined the dots on the iPhone upgrade landscape quite accurately, and his survey of people who are outside the tech echo chamber does indeed suggest that there's a lot of interest in the upcoming iPhone.

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