Apple expected to sell 5-6M iPhone 5S, 5Cs this weekend

Apple could pull in equal to or slightly better opening sales than it did last year, according to a new analyst estimate.

San Francisco Apple store line-goers in the early morning on the iPhone 4S launch day in October 2011.
San Francisco Apple store line-goers in the early morning on the iPhone 4S launch day in October 2011. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Apple could be on track to sell more iPhones than it did last year, but not by much, says a new report.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster issued a note Wednesday afternoon saying he expects Apple to report sales of around 5 million to 6 million iPhone 5S and 5C units in its first weekend. That would be on par with, or 1 million more than, the sales of 5 million the company reported with last year's iPhone 5.

"While the 5-6 million range may be viewed by some as a disappointment given that it will include China as a launch country for the first time, we believe our survey work suggests that demand is healthy, but slightly below where demand was for the iPhone 5 was last year, which included a new form factor," Munster wrote.

Apple has not yet offered any glimpse of just how many iPhone 5C units it sold. The device went on sale last Friday, and launch allocations appear to have sold out online from Apple's online store as well as through its carrier partners. For the past three years, Apple has posted early sales numbers following its first full day of preorders, something it skipped this time around.

Munster's report follows one that Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty posted earlier this morning that suggested Apple's on track to pull in a 28 percent increase on iPhone unit sales this quarter. That information came from the firm's own smartphone tracking research, which tallied up an estimate of 34.5 million iPhones for Apple's current quarter, which ends later this month. That's compared with last year's 26.9 million iPhones, which itself was a 58 percent increase over the year before.

On top of the estimate, which few other analysts are providing, Munster noted that Apple has published opening weekend sales of the iPhone since 2008, making any break from that behavior unusual -- but that if it doesn't this time around, you can blame the iPhone 5S and its reported supply shortages.

"While Apple not releasing sales figures would be immediately viewed a disappointment, the supply constraints around the iPhone 5S should factor into how investors think about weekend sales figures," Munster said. "If the iPhone 5S sells out early in the weekend, it means demand is healthy and supply is short, but if 5S supply lasts through the weekend, it could mean that demand is weaker than expected."

So far the only indicator on just how much of the iPhone 5S Apple has, was in China and Hong Kong -- where the device was offered up for presale. Nearly all of that stock disappeared shortly after it went up for sale, suggesting the device will be tough to get.

Both devices go on sale this Friday at 8 a.m. local time. The iPhone 5S goes up for online sale at 12:01 a.m. PT Friday.

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