49.5 million iPhones sold during December quarter, say analysts

Summary:Analyst figures suggest Apple may have sold as many as 43-63 million iPhones during the lucrative December holiday quarter. Analysts weigh in with their thoughts and estimates.

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Apple's iPhone 5, released in September, would have had a significant positive impact on the company's sales figures, thanks to Apple's break into mainland China. Credit: CNET

Apple may have sold anywhere between 43 million and 63 million iPhones during the December quarter. 

The wide-range figure was published by Fortune editor Philip Elmer DeWitt, who compiled the average and median estimates from 56 analysts, to determine what kind of quarter it was for the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant.

The range is a bit wide, but the average figure across the dozens of analysts pegs in at 52.3 million, or a median estimate of 49.5 million -- which still shows an increase on the 47.6 million sold during the September quarter, and a massive increase on the 37 million sold on the same quarter in 2011.

And why does it matter? Considering in light of an upcoming launch of BlackBerry 10 phones , a distinct lack of Android devices in the enterprise thanks to the lacking back-end management features on offer, and relatively poor-to-modest overall sales figures for Windows Phone -- not only does the iPhone rule the roost in the consumer market, but also it's beginning to have a considerably strong impact on the enterprise market.

The figures aren't perfect -- we will have to wait until Apple's first quarter earnings on January 23 -- because there was one extra week in 2012, the iPhone 5 was launched a month earlier than the iPhone 4S, and the iPhone 5 was rolled out in China -- where the numbers are far greater than any other region -- far quicker than previous devices. 

Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um said:

AT&T announced [on Tuesday] that it has set another Q4 record selling 10 million smartphones (up 6.4 percent year on year) in Q4 2012. This compares to 9.4 million sold in Q4 2011 (the company's previous record). In addition, the company noted that Android and Apple phones had their "best-ever quarterly sales." [...] This announcement, coupled with our recent checks, provides us with additional comfort in our December quarter iPhone estimate of 46 million.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, who only today lowered his price estimates on Apple, followed along similar lines of logic:

We believe there are a few recent relevant data points around iPhone that are net inline with our 45 million unit estimate for December [...] Third, Apple reported 500 million active iTunes accounts yesterday, up from 435 million in mid-September, which we believe points to 50 million new accounts in December. [...] We are expecting 21 percent year-on-year iPhone growth in December.  

Munster said that while Apple will likely see an increase in iPhone sales by 45 million, overall iOS devices will reach 75-80 million during the December sales period.

Topics: iPhone, Apple

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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