Could Apple sell 30 million iPhones next quarter?

With the likely launch of the iPhone 5, Apple could see sales of 30 million iPhones around the world and 10 million just in the U.S. during this year's final quarter, says BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk.

Could Apple sell 30 million iPhones in the fourth quarter?
Could Apple sell 30 million iPhones in the fourth quarter? Apple

With a new iPhone expected this fall, Apple's flagship device could deliver record sales of 30 million units around the world just in the fourth quarter, according to an analyst from investment firm BTIG.

In an investor's note released yesterday, analyst Walter Piecyk pointed to the strong demand for a new iPhone as one key reason for his forecast, which is higher than BTIG's current estimate of 21.5 million.

In comparison, Apple sold 14.1 million iPhones during last year's third quarter (its fiscal fourth quarter), the first full quarter following the launch of the iPhone 4 in late June.

Even further, the company could sell as many as 10 million iPhones in the U.S. alone in this year's final quarter, Piecyk forecasts. The numbers just in the U.S. would double Apple's prior sales record and account for almost 50 percent of BTIG's current forecast.

But Apple is also less reliant on the U.S. market than when it launched the iPhone 4, noted the analyst. The number of global carriers has now grown to 225, up from 150 when the current iPhone debuted. In 2009, AT&T accounted for around 40 percent of all the iPhones sold, according to BTIG estimates. But now, AT&T and Verizon Wireless combined account for only 30 percent.

The analyst cited other reasons for his huge global sales forecast.

Apple's legacy phones are likely to continue to sell at discounted prices, in the same way the iPhone 3GS is currently available for $49 . Retailers such as Target and Radio Shack have already trimmed their prices on the iPhone 4 in anticipation of a new model, according to Ars Technica and other news sites.

Further, Piecyk expects Apple to expand its U.S. carrier network to include Sprint, a move that's been rumored for a few months . If Sprint hops on the iPhone bandwagon, it could account for 1.5 million of the 30 million units projected globally.

Looking at the other U.S. carriers, Piecyk expects AT&T to sell at least 5 million iPhones in the fourth quarter, the same number of iPhone 4 handsets it sold during that model's initial quarter. But 5 million could turn out to be a lowball estimate, according to the analyst, since AT&T now has around 23 million iPhone subscribers and potential upgraders, compared with only 16.5 million when the iPhone 4 launched.

Verizon Wireless is expected to contribute 4 million in iPhone unit sales for the quarter. iPhone sales for the carrier failed to meet BTIG's estimates for the second quarter. But Piecyk believes Verizon customers were simply waiting for a new model rather than opting for an iPhone 4 that had already been on the market for six months.

Of course, one key question remains. Could Apple ramp up 30 million iPhones to sell around the world in a single quarter? The company ran into trouble trying to fill enough iPad 2 orders to meet the overwhelming demand.

Piecyk doesn't provide an answer but admits that supply chain constraints and an elevated number of phones consumed just by carriers in the U.S. "could make the 30 million target difficult to reach."

 

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