iPhone may have sold record 55 million units last quarter - analyst

But unit sales are expected to dip to 45 million this quarter and 35 million the following quarter, forecasts analyst Katy Huberty.

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 record iPhone sales when it announces its December quarter results next week.

In an investors note out Tuesday, Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said she expects unit sales of 54 million to 55 million for the final quarter of 2013, aka Apple's first fiscal quarter of 2014. That's slightly higher than the Wall Street consensus of around 53 million units. In contrast, Apple sold 47.8 million iPhones in the first fiscal quarter of 2013.

Of course, those record unit sales for last quarter will dip from their holiday highs as we move through 2014.

Huberty's crystal ball sees 45 million units in iPhone sales this quarter, followed by 35 million in the June quarter. The analyst didn't share any predictions for the September quarter, but iPhone sales typically sink early on as buyers hold off purchases in anticipation of a new iPhone. Sales then shoot up once the new phone debuts later in September.

And what will Apple have in store for this year? The iPhone 6 likely will have a larger screen to better compete with Samsung's huge lineup, according to Huberty and many other Apple watchers. But there will certainly be more in store.

"We believe Apple is likely to launch new Internet-based services this year, including the potential for a mobile payments platform as early as the developer conference in June, in our view," Huberty said. "Most importantly, we believe Apple will start to monetize services on top of the many assets they have, such as iBeacon, fingerprint sensor, 575M+ credit card accounts, and homogeneous iOS installed base. iWatch or a larger iPad form factor would also push consensus estimates higher."

Huberty expects Apple to report December quarter revenue as high as $58 billion. Apple will announce its latest quarterly results on Monday, January 27.