While the Apple Watch is capturing most of the attention today, investors shouldn’t forget the importance of the iPhone in the company’s earnings report. Apple is scheduled to release its next earnings report on April 27, and it won’t include any sales of the Apple Watch, which starts shipping just a few days before then, on April 24.
Apple iPhone estimates range from 55M to 64M
So how many iPhones did the company ship during the March quarter, which is usually a very seasonally slow quarter? UBS analysts see room for significant upside in iPhone units for the quarter, although they have trimmed their earnings per share estimate for the quarter based on currency headwinds.
In a report dated April 9, analysts Steven Milunovich and Peter Christiansen said their UBS Evidence iPhone Monitor suggests Apple sold 64 million iPhone units during its second fiscal quarter. This is a slight decline from their last reading of 66 million but significantly ahead of the consensus estimate of 55.5 million.
It should be noted that UBS tracks sell-through rather than sell-in, which is what Apple reports. Based on the findings of the Evidence Lab, Milunovich and Christiansen estimate that Apple sold between 58 million and 60 million iPhone units in terms of sell-in. They came to that estimate based on their adjustments for supply problems and changes in channel inventory.
Apple sees strong demand in China
The UBS team also reports that they picked up very strong demand in Chia, which is in line with reports from other firms. They looked at shipments from 20 countries and regions and Google Search trends to estimate where demand for the iPhone was the strongest during the quarter.
In analyzing these data points, they found that demand in China may have picked up during the March quarter. However, they pointed out that their method of estimating regional demand has overestimating demand in China in the past. However, they add that it has been “directionally correct” in picking up strong demand for the iPhone 6 in China.
Further, they note that Kantar reported an all-time high in iPhone sales in February. The firm found that the iPhone made up 28% of smartphone sales in major Chinese cities. The UBS team thinks interest in the phablet-sized iPhone 6 Plus is higher in China than it is anywhere else.
Average selling price takes a hit from currency
The analysts trimmed their estimates for the March quarter, however, due to an expected 5% headwind on the average selling price for the iPhone. The reason for this is the strengthening of the U.S. dollar. Half of that headwind comes from the weakening of the euro.
Their March quarter estimate falls from $2.36 to $2.34 per share, which remains ahead of the consensus estimate of $2.13 per share. For the June quarter, their estimate falls from 1.77 to $1.71 per share, compared to the consensus estimate of $1.66 per share.
They noted that Apple did raise prices for apps in the European Union in early January. The approximately 10% price increase did not change the prices for the iPhone even though the value of the euro has declined approximately 20% year over year.
They expect currency to have a bigger impact on Apple’s earnings going forward “as hedges roll off.” They continue to rate Apple as a Buy with a price target of $150 per share. As of this writing, shares of Apple were down 0.71% to $125.66 per share.