iPhone sales hit 35 million last quarter, forecasts analyst

Taking in Verizon's iPhone sales for the March quarter, analyst Gene Munster sticks with an overall iPhone sales forecast of 35.5 million.

Lance Whitney
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.
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Apple likely sold around 35.5 million iPhones last quarter, according to Piper Jaffay analyst Gene Munster.

In an investors note out Thursday, the analyst cited the 4 million iPhones activated by Verizon last quarter, which represent a 56 percent share of the carrier's smartphone sales and are inline with Munster's expectations.

Though that number is down from the December quarter's 63 percent, Munster believes such a decline is expected since the holiday quarter was the first full quarter of iPhone 5 sales, a period when the phone's share of the market is typically at its strongest.

Verizon's iPhone share was also up compared with the 51 percent reported for 2012's March quarter.

"The Mar-13 Verizon results show stability in iPhone's franchise in the U.S. which is a positive, but we caution the international wild card," Munster said. "Separately, given we only have the Verizon numbers, it's difficult to predict total iPhones sold in the Mar-13 quarter. Overall, we are looking for 35.5 million vs. the Street at 37 million and remain comfortable with our estimate."

Verizon also reported a 50-50 split in sales between the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4/4S. That was a bit weaker than the 60-40 split in favor of the iPhone 5 that the analyst anticipated. Overall, though, Verizon's numbers leave Munster comfortable with his forecast of $41.4 billion in total revenues for Apple for the March quarter.

Raymond James analyst Tavis McCourt cautioned against predicting overall iPhone sales for the March quarter based on Verizon's numbers. Sales for the December quarter typically tilt heavily toward U.S. carriers. But McCourt believes international sales will play much more of a role in iPhone sales last quarter. That sentiment was echoed by Munster, who pointed to the "international wild card."

McCourt points out that that Verizon's numbers show the iPhone continuing to gain more market share over last year. And even though this trend is only from a single carrier so far, it's a sign that Apple's "ecosystem strategy" is still working, at least in the U.S.