iPhone refresh could be straining Apple's flash memory suppliers

According to Ed Sutherland from Cult of Mac, three out of four Apple's NAND flash memory suppliers are feeling the strain as the company demands storage for its new line of iPhones.

Sutherland cites a research report by analyst Vijay Rakesh from ThinkEquity. Rakesh says that Samsung has set aside its inventory of NAND chips for Apple until April.

Hynix, another supplier, reported softer sales growth for its NAND chips, and Toshiba is having problems supplying customers with 56nm NAND chips. Apple's fourth supplier, Micron, wasn't mentioned in Rakesh's report.

Aside from a new iPhone handset on the way, what does this mean? Higher memory prices, for one. Rakesh said that he expects NAND spot and contract prices to rise.

Many analysts around the time of Apple's Q1 conference call said they had high hopes for a new iPhone during the first half of the year. Some rumors suggest June might be the target date for release.