More than half of the phones that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) sold during the third quarter of 2013 were iPhones, according to the earnings report the company released this morning before the market opened. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) released two new iPhone models in the middle of that month, so it’s unclear which model Verizon customers went for en masse.


Analysts at Stifel reckon that the 3.9 million iPhone activations recorded by Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) could mean there is an upside to the firm’s estimate of 28 million iPhone sales in the third quarter. Consensus estimates suggested that just 3.5 million iPhones would be sold at Verizon in the September quarter.

Apple iPhone sales

iPhone sales are the single most important component of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) business. Analysts are constantly trying to refine their estimates in order to get as close to an accurate projection of Apple earnings as possible. The Cupertino company will release its earnings report for the September quarter, which Apple records as its fourth, on October 28.

Higher iPhone sales would mean higher Apple results, ceteris paribus. According to Stifel, Verizon communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) has sold about 11 percent of iPhones over the last two years. The 3.9 million activated in the September quarter indicates that 28 million may be a low figure for Apple iPhone sales in the period.

The analysis is nowhere near ironclad, but it does suggest that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) will do better than the analysts previously expected in the coming earnings report. Stifel rates Apple a buy and has a price target of $540 on the company’s shares.

Apple iPhone sales metrics

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) still earns a large portion of its iPhone revenue in the United States. That makes a single carrier in the country a better-than-nothing proxy for the company’s total iPhone sales in any given period. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) was the first of the major U.S. carriers to report its results.

In the coming weeks we’ll see how iPhone sales fared on the other big carriers in the country. AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) will report earnings on October 23rd. Sprint Corporation (NYSE:S) will come out with its numbers on October 30th.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) sold 7.6 million smartphones in the third quarter. 51 percent of those were iPhones. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is still the best performing company in the smartphone market, though that might not last forever.