Can Apple sell 92 mln iPhones?
There is no bigger Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) fan among Wall Street analysts than Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray. His optimism extends to his prediction that Apple will sell 92 mln new iPhones this year alone. The early sales rates of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models support Munster’s prediction. Apple and wireless carriers like AT&T Inc. say they are out of the smartphones. As a matter of fact, AT&T Mobility’s CEO said the launch of the iPhone 6 was a milestone for the carrier. Glenn Lurie, the chief executive officer of AT&T Mobility commented, “This is our biggest iPhone, preorder launch day ever.”
On Monday, Apple said it received a record 4 mln first-day pre-orders of its new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, meaning many customers will have to wait until October for their new phones. Apple said a significant number of orders will be delivered to customers in stores in the U.S., Canada, Australia and some other countries as of Friday, but many will be shipped in October as demand outstrips supply.
The first-day pre-orders for the new iPhones, which feature larger screens, were double the 2 mln orders for iPhone 5 models in 2012.
Apple’s success could be its own greatest enemy as it drives for record sales in the final three and a half months of the year. Its website says many versions of the iPhone 6 will not be available for three to four weeks (with free shipping). Apple has a track record of underestimating demand, or keeping supply constrained to create the appearance of demand. In either case, each day that its supply chain cannot cough up phones is another day the 92 mln figure is in jeopardy.
Another barrier to the success of the iPhone 6 is a potential glitch in its performance, or some problem that could cause the iPhone 6 to need some alteration or repair. Such a problem is not simply a matter of imagination. In 2010, the iPhone 4 had antenna problems. The solution was for people to get a special case or hold the phone in a way that helped boost reception. Although the trouble created a black eye, it did not appear to curb demand. Yet, as is true of all consumer electronics devices, there is always a risk that a new product will not be glitch free.
Apple’s website showed last week that the larger 5.5-inch “Plus” models displayed a wait time of up to a month. The 4.7inch version was available for delivery on Friday.
The company routinely grapples with iPhone supply constraints, particularly in years that involve a smartphone redesign. The best sign for Munster, as a financial analyst, is that Apple will meet its share price target. At more than $100 (up 1% at $101.94 on Monday), it is near a 52-week high. On December 31, 2014, the price may be as good an indicator as any other as to whether Munster’s call was right.