A correction was made to this story. See below for details.
Updated at 2:54 p.m. PDT with with additional information about the volume of NAND chips Apple is reportedly purchasing and its effect on the number of units the company could ship.
Apple has reportedly ordered 100 million units of 8-gigabit and 16-gigabit NAND flash chips, with the bulk of its order coming from its main iPhone chip supplier, Samsung, according to a research report released Monday by a Lazard Capital Markets analyst.
The majority of the sizable order is expected to be applied toward the 16-gigabit NAND, signaling that a 32-gigabyte iPhone is in the works to debut in June, said Daniel Amir, a Lazard Capital Markets analyst.
An order of 100 million 16-gigabit chips, for example, could produce roughly 12 million of Apple's 16GB iPhones, far more than the 7 million iPhones Wall Street expects Apple to make in the second quarter. But the same order of 100 million chips could produce roughly 6 million Apple 32GB iPhones.
Last month,that he had heard from industry contacts that Apple was expected to begin production on a 32GB iPhone in April and May, with a release in early June.
Apple currently has a 16GB iPhone on the market. Wall Street is expecting the computer maker to ship 3 million to 3.5 million of its iPhone smartphones in the first quarter and to virtually double that figure in the second quarter.
Amir said that while the sizable NAND order could be used to dramatically increase production on the 16GB iPhones, that scenario is unlikely, given that Apple appears to be searching for ways to reduce inventory of the 16GB iPhones through special promotions and discounts.
And while the flash memory could be used in a refresh of Apple's iMacs, Amir said the bulk of the NAND order was made with Samsung, Apple's main iPhone chip supplier.
"Historically, Apple's orders with Samsung have been for iPhone flash (memory), since Samsung has worked with Apple in developing special packaging for the iPhone," Amir said.
He added that a large order from Apple also tends to result in a rippling effect through the flash memory market, and he anticipates as much as a potential 20 percent increase in pricing by the other memory makers.
Correction: When it was initially published, this story used an incorrect acronym for the 8-gigabit and 16-gigabit NAND chips. Gigabits are represented as Gb.