Apple reportedly preps biggest iPhone order ever for new devices

The smartphone giant has asked suppliers to build up to 90 million units of its newest iPhones, expected later this year, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
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Apple has sold more than 135 million iPhones over the past couple of quarters, and it reportedly expects even higher demand for its next devices. CNET

Apple plans to build more iPhones than ever before for the new models expected later this year, according to a report.

The Cupertino, Calif., smartphone giant has asked suppliers in Asia to make 85 million to 90 million units of two new iPhones with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens for release later this year, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. Last year, Apple had asked suppliers to initially build 70 million to 80 million units of its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones -- which, up to now, have been the best-selling devices Apple has ever created.

The new devices -- likely hitting the market in the fall -- will feature similar designs to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the report said, which follows Apple's trend over the past generations of its popular smartphone. The off-year "S" model typically adds features that don't dramatically alter the overall design -- such as the Siri digital voice assistant, added with the iPhone 4S, or the TouchID fingerprint reader, which debuted with the iPhone 5S. Apple may include its ForceTouch technology in the new devices, allowing the iPhones to differentiate between hard and light taps on the display. And Apple is expected to keep the new phones' resolution the same as that of the current iPhones, the Journal said, as well as add a fourth color option for the devices.

Apple declined to comment.

Apple's iPhone has become more vital than ever to the company's financial results. Increasing the iPhone screen sizes to 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches from the 4-inch iPhone 5S helped Apple attract a bigger crop of users than ever before. The device's popularity has risen in places such as China, which became Apple's biggest smartphone market during the company's fiscal second quarter, ended in March.

For the past couple of quarters, more than two-thirds of Apple's sales have come from the device, much higher than the typical level, which is closer to 50 percent. Apple has sold 135.7 million iPhones over the past two quarters, up about 43 percent from the same period a year ago.

Apple may hire a third supplier, Wistron, to build its upcoming iPhones, according to the Journal, something that should help the company meet demand faster. In the past, customers have had to wait weeks or even months to receive the smartphones they desire. That's caused people to camp out at Apple Stores to receive the phone the first day it goes on sale. In the past, Apple has primarily relied on Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn, and Pegatron to assemble its devices.

Updated at 2:35 p.m. PT with Apple declining to comment.