Apple to ring in 71.5M iPhone sales in holiday quarter -- analyst

But sales will sink to under 50 million in the first quarter of next year, forecasts KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
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The iPhone 6 will account for 60 percent of all iPhone sales this quarter, said Ming-Chi Kuo. CNET

Apple's holiday quarter will be a merry one, courtesy of heavy demand for the iPhone 6, says at least one analyst.

In an investors report scooped up by AppleInsider, KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said he predicts that Apple will sell 71.5 million iPhones during the current quarter. If true, that number would be about a 40 percent jump over the 51 million iPhones sold during the final quarter of 2013 and an 82 percent leap over the 39.3 million sold last quarter.

The iPhone 6 will lead the sales surge this quarter, said Kuo, accounting for 60 percent of all iPhone sales for the quarter, or 41.65 million handsets. And by iPhone 6, the analyst specifically means the 4.7-inch screened variant.

The new iPhone represents a major shift by Apple into the world of big-screened smartphones. As consumers gravitated to larger phones, the iPhone was stuck with a screen size of 4 inches. That's one reason Apple had been losing sales and market share to rival devices, particularly those running Android, Google's mobile operating system. The iPhone 6 is Apple's attempt to win back those consumers and fight back against the competition.

The higher iPhone sales anticipated this quarter also come amidst lower-than-expected smartphone sales for Samsung. Samsung has typically been pegged as the top global smartphone vendor, according to reports from IDC and other research firms, but now Apple has a chance to catch up with its chief rival.

What of Apple's really big-screened phone, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus? Kuo sees only around 15 million in unit sales for that model this quarter. But that's not necessarily due to a lack of popularity. The analyst believes the 6 Plus is facing a supply shortage as a result of heavy demand and production problems. Final sales figures for the 6 Plus will depend on how many units Apple suppliers are able to successfully pump out.

The holiday quarter is always the most popular one for product sales. So it's not a huge surprise that Kuo expects iPhone sales to drop during the first quarter of 2015. Given the post-holiday dip, the analyst predicts that iPhone 6 sales will fall to 21.6 million and iPhone 6 Plus sales will slip to 10.2 million for the quarter ending March.

The iPhone 5S will also see a decline in sales from 8.8 million for the current quarter to 7.3 million next quarter. However, iPhone 5C and 4S sales are actually forecast to grow next quarter. The analyst expects the 5C to benefit from lower promotional pricing, while Apple may push the 4S to more emerging markets.

Apple did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.