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Could Qualcomm supply constraints delay the 2012 iPhone release?

Increasing demand for Qualcomm's advanced LTE cellphone chips, and the company's inability to meet that demand, has led to speculation that Apple's 2012 iPhone could be delayed.

Qualcomm's supply issues could keep the iPhone 4S as Apple's flagship smartphone longer than expected. Apple

A Qualcomm conference call Wednesday, according to Reuters, brought Qualcomm's supply constraint issues to light. CEO Paul Jacobs, addressing analysts on the call, stated, "At this stage we cannot secure enough supply to meet the increasing demand we are experiencing."

That supply constraint could affect many cellphone makers hoping to use Qualcomm's advanced 28-nanometer chips, including Apple. To handle the constraints, Qualcomm is looking for new manufacturing partners, a move that will contribute to raising its operating expenses up to 23 percent, according to Chief Financial Officer Bill Keitel.

"Demand went so far ahead of availability that we've decided to start spending more money to get more supply as soon as possible," Keitel told Reuters.

Qualcomm's stock has suffered following its inability to keep up with demand. Despite meeting revenue expectations, Qualcomm shares fell 3 percent, as investors had hoped for more.

One of the most in-demand chips that Qualcomm makes is for Long Term Evolution (LTE), a feature widely expected to be included in Apple's next iPhone later this year. The new iPad, released earlier this year, already takes advantage of LTE, which could be the strongest signal that Apple is ready to include it in the iPhone.

If Qualcomm cannot catch up to industrywide demand, though, Apple may suffer from lack of the supplies needed to build and distribute a 4G iPhone.

A request for comment from Apple went unanswered, though Cupertino is not generally known to comment about supply chain rumors concerning unannounced products.

Should Apple be worried about Qualcomm's supply issues? How long until Apple starts building its own LTE chips? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!