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iPhone unit sales could soar to 235M in 2015 -- analyst

That bullish forecast for Apple's fiscal 2015, built on expectations of iPhone 6 news Tuesday, would easily top unit sales likely in the fiscal year now winding down.

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Photo by CNET

The widely anticipated iPhone 6 could help trigger record iPhone sales -- as many as 235 million units -- in fiscal 2015. At least, that's the number seen in the crystal ball of JP Morgan analyst Rod Hall.

In an investors note released Monday, Hall said that the most bullish prediction at this point calls for 235 million iPhones sold across 64 different countries throughout Apple's fiscal 2015, which starts in October. Such an estimate would actually be 18 percent higher than the firm's current forecasts.

Apple will host a launch event on Tuesday at which it's rumored to unveil at least one, and possibly two, iPhone 6 models -- one with a 4.7-inch screen, the other with a 5.5-inch display. In a mobile market where buyers have flocked to big-screen smartphones, Apple has been a laggard with its iPhone lineup still stuck with a 4-inch screen. That may be one significant reason why Apple has lost market share to its Android rivals. A larger screen as well as other rumored features , such as a sapphire screen, near-field (NFC) communications, mobile payments, a better camera, and a beefier processor, could go a long way toward revving up sales and market share.

Tuesday's Apple event is also expected to bring the company's long-awaited wearable device.

A total of 235 million iPhones sold in fiscal 2015 would far surpass the number likely for fiscal 2014. So far, Apple has sold 51 million iPhones in the first fiscal quarter of the year, 37.4 million in the second, and 35.2 million in the third. To reach 235 million units for fiscal 2014, Apple would have to sell 111.4 million iPhones this quarter. Hmm, not likely, especially since sales tend to languish in the early months of a quarter during which a new iPhone is launched.

Assuming the bullish scenario of 235 million iPhones sold in fiscal 2015, Hall said he believes that 155 million iPhones will be sold to upgraders from prior models, while 80 million will be snagged by new adopters. The analyst also projected a less bullish forecast of 200 million iPhones sold and a bearish estimate of just 164 million.

Hall said he expects Apple to launch both the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhones. But except for optical image stabilization included in the larger model, he doesn't see many differences in features between the two. And what about the much-rumored sapphire screen?

"Checks continue to suggest that certain 5.5-inch models will have a sapphire cover," the analyst said. "We are less convinced this will be the case given production difficulties with sapphire and high cost. However, we do believe sapphire could be popular enough if launched selectively to create serious supply shortages."

CNET will host a live blog of Apple's launch event on Tuesday, September 9, at 10 a.m. PT following a broadcast preview of what's to come starting at 8:45 a.m.

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