Apple Inc. May Sell 55 – 60M iPhones In December Quarter

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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s first day orders and first weekend sales suggest that the company could sell between 55 million and 60 million in the fourth calendar quarter of the year. Of course these numbers depend entirely on availability of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, as Apple does not recognize sales until it actually ships the products to customers.

Apple beats Bernstein’s first weekend estimate

In a report dated Sept. 22, 2014, Bernstein analysts Toni Sacconaghi, Eric Garfunkel and Jonathan Cofsky said they had been estimating between 7 million and 8 million iPhone units would be sold over opening weekend. Of course Apple handily beat that, coming in at more than 10 million.

They point out that first weekend sales are more a function of supply rather than demand and say that it looks like availability of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus was “particularly constrained this year.” Already shipment times for the earliest orders look to be longer than usual.

iPhone 6, 6 Plus sales depend on availability

They also note that China wasn’t one of the first countries to get the two new iPhones, but they think Apple will still manage to sell between 55 million and 60 million iPhones in the December quarter. These numbers assume no iPhone 6 or 6 Plus sales in China.

They also point out that in previous iPhone launches, first weekend iPhone sales were about 24% of average trailing quarterly sales. Assuming that this percentage remains the same, it would suggest that Apple will sell approximately 56 million iPhone units in the December quarter.

The analysts also estimate December quarter iPhone sales another way. Preorders for the iPhone 5 were double those of the iPhone 4S. The number of units rose 30% year over year in the next quarter. Assuming a similar increase compared to the iPhone 5, they arrive at about 62 million units shipped in the December quarter. This number assumes China is added toward the middle of December, which is when the iPhone 5 was added there.

Supply, demand and China

The Bernstein team said they’re now wondering just how bad the supply constraints for the two new iPhones are. They noted that four of the last five iPhone releases had similar language about supply constraints. They also question whether these supply constraints are to blame for China not being included in the initial launch.

They point out that China has made up around 20% of Apple’s total iPhone sales, so launching in China along with the other countries would have added about another 25% demand pull on the two new iPhones. That would have resulted in even worse supply constraints in other parts of the world. They also add that the 20 more countries Apple is adding this week only account for about 12% of iPhone sales.

When will the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus go to China?

Analysts are now wondering when Apple’s two new iPhones will be available in China. UBS analysts say it will probably be “soon,” noting that Apple is still awaiting network license approvals. However, they don’t think there will be any “major delays” in getting those approvals.

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