We don’t believe it.
Here’s why: At the end of September, Apple had moved 1.39 million iPhones since the devices first went on sale in late June. To hit the 5 million mark by the Macworld keynote, Apple would have to have sold 3.61 million iPhones between Oct. 1 and Jan. 14, — or about 34,000 per day over the 106-day period.
By the end of the Sept. quarter, after the $200 price cut, we calculated that Apple was selling about 19,500 phones per day. To achieve the 34k unit/day run rate, Apple would need to increase its sales rate by almost 75%. Could they pull it off? The iPhone is on sale in Europe now, and it’s also the holiday shopping season — Apple’s best quarter of the year by far. But consumers already know a new, better iPhone will be out next year, and could delay their purchases. (We are.)
It’s not really fair to compare iPhones to iPods, because iPhones are a lot more expensive and require a pricey, 2-year AT&T contract. (iPhone costs $399, avg. iPod selling price is around/below $150.) But let’s suppose — for kicks, because it’s Friday — that Apple could miraculously jack its holiday iPhone sales rate the same amount its iPod sales increase during the holidays. In 2005, Apple sold 2.2 times as many iPods in the Dec. quarter as it did during the Sept. quarter. In 2006, it sold 2.4 times as many in the Dec. quarter as it did in the Sept. quarter. This year, the Street expects Apple to sell 2.3 times as many as it sold in the Sept. quarter.
So if Apple got extremely lucky and increased its iPhone-sales rate 2.3 times its late-September pace, it could sell about 44,900 iPhones per day, or 4.13 million during the 92 days between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. That would give it a total of 5.5 million iPhones sold, with two weeks to spare before the Macworld keynote. But we think we’re more likely to see Steve Jobs give his speech in a pink leotard.
A more reasonable approximation, courtesy Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster: Apple will sell 2 million iPhones in each of the Dec. and March quarters, 79% more per quarter than it did in the Sept. quarter. That would give Apple about 3.4 million iPhones sold by the end of 2007, and about 3.7 million sold by the Macworld keynote.
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