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iPhone sales expected to show hefty gain in past quarter -- analyst

Apple may have sold as many as 57 million iPhones last quarter, according to analyst Gene Munster. That would be a sharp jump from 43.7 million from a year ago. But would that make Wall Street happy?

How many iPhones did Apple sell last quarter? CNET

Boosted by the iPhone 6 lineup, Apple smartphone sales in the first three months of 2015 are likely to show a big jump over those from a year ago.

In an investors note released Friday, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster pegged iPhone sales for January through March -- Apple's second fiscal quarter -- at 57 million units. If his prediction pans out, that would mean significant growth over the 43.7 million iPhones sold in the same period last year.

During the October-through-December quarter, Apple broke its own record by selling 74.5 million iPhones. Most product sales naturally slow down following the holiday-shopping season. But would 57 million units for the March quarter still be considered a win for Apple? Munster didn't say either way, but at least one stock watcher is saying no.

In an article published Friday, 24/7 Wall St. editor Douglas McIntyre said that the company's stock could drop substantially if iPhone sales are any lower than 60 million. Further, he said, a figure less than 70 million may disappoint some people, presumably certain analysts and investors. McIntyre added that some investors will even hope that Apple can match the 74.5 million in iPhone sales.

However, the October-through-December quarter not only included holiday sales but also was the first full quarter in which the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were available. Expecting last quarter's iPhone sales to match or come close to those of the holiday quarter may be unrealistic, even with the high demand for the new phones.

Apple had been losing market share and customers to Samsung in part due to the craving for big-screened smartphones. The company finally responded to consumer demand by introducing the 4.7-inch screen iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch screen 6 Plus in September. As a result of huge demand for the new phones, Apple either tied with Samsung in worldwide smartphone market share in the fourth quarter or surpassed the Korean phone maker to take home the highest percentage of smartphone sales.

Looking beyond last quarter to the rest of the year, Munster said that Wall Street is forecasting iPhone sales of 42.7 million for the current quarter, 45.1 million for the September quarter and 73.4 million for the December quarter. And moving even further in time, Munster said he believes analysts expect Apple to sell 229.6 million iPhones in 2016, which would be up from the 218.2 million projected for this year.

Apple is due to report its latest quarterly earnings on April 27.

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