Apple may have sold 57M iPhones last quarter -- analyst

The estimate from analyst Toni Sacconaghi Jr. would top the Wall Street consensus of around 55 million units.

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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Apple could reveal iPhone sales as high as 57.5 million later today. At least, that's the forecast from Sanford Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi Jr.

In an investor's note out Monday, Sacconaghi noted that Wall Street expects Apple to report around 55 million iPhone handsets sold in the final three months of 2013 -- which is actually Apple's first fiscal quarter of 2014. But Sacconaghi said he believes the Street is underestimating the benefit to Apple from "carrier additions and an earlier China launch relative to the iPhone 5 cycle." During the quarter, Apple added Japan's NTT DoCoMo to its carrier lineup and was covered in China by China Telecom and China Unicom.

If Sacconaghi is on the money, iPhone sales would jump by 70 percent from the 33.8 million units reported in the July-through-September quarter and by 20 percent from the 47.8 million seen in the final three months of 2012. Moving ahead, China Mobile is expected to boost iPhone sales by adding 11.6 million units sold for fiscal 2014 and 15 million for fiscal 2015.

His projection isn't as promising for the iPad. The analyst expects iPad unit sales of 23.5 million, lower than the Wall Street consensus of 26 million.

"Apple has been losing meaningful market share to cheaper Android competition (34 percent in [calendar year] 2013 through Q3 vs. 46 percent unit share in 2012), and we believe the market for high-end tablets may be increasingly saturated," Sacconaghi said.

The analyst also ended his report with a sour note for the future.

"Beyond [fiscal year] 2014, it is not a slam dunk that Apple's net income will be higher in 3-5 years," Sacconaghi said. "Without new product categories, we see Apple's end markets as increasingly mature and competitive, which could pressure or limit revenue growth and gross margins."

Sacconaghi said that his revenue and earnings estimates for fiscal 2015 are 3 percent below the consensus but added that those predictions are likely to change based on new and refreshed products.

Apple will report its results for the final three months of 2013 after the stock market closes today.