Apple's iPhone 5 launch weekend: 8 million units or bust?

The reviews for Apple's iPhone 5 are glowing and now it's time for those launch weekend guesstimates. Anywhere from 6 million to 10 million units will move between Friday's launch and Monday, one analyst says.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor
Credit: CNET

The reviews for iPhone 5 are in and the consensus view is that Apple's flagship device is a must have upgrade. As the iPhone 5 launches on Friday the big question is whether Apple will sell 8 million or more devices launch weekend.

According to CNET, which gave the iPhone high marks along with other reviewers:

The iPhone 5 is the iPhone we've wanted since 2010, adding long-overdue upgrades like a larger screen and faster 4G LTE in a razor-sharp new design. This is the iPhone, rebooted.

Fair enough. Now let's translate those glowing reviews into real units and dollars.

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Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster---among the biggest Apple bulls on Wall Street---said in a research note:

We believe that the reported 2 million iPhone 5 pre-order unit number suggests that Apple could sell 6-10 million phones in the launch weekend. We believe Apple will issue a press release on Monday September 24th about launch weekend sales. The mid-point of our weekend sales total would suggest 100% y/y growth from the iPhone 4S launch. We note that iPhone 4S grew 135% y/y in its launch weekend compared to the iPhone 4. We believe that some investors may have slight concerns regarding Apple's ability to sell 6-10 million phones in the launch weekend given the suggested phone sales per hour at retail given the numbers. While we acknowledge the concern, we remain confident that between continued online pre-orders and expanded retail and country distribution, Apple will be able to deliver on the 6-10 million unit weekend sales expectation.

Take the midpoint of Munster's projections and you get to 8 million units. Munster's "worst case launch figure" is 6 million.




The wild card here will be supply. Apple's supply chain hums, but shortages are likely.

Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes said:

Apple introduced the new iPhone 5 and we were impressed with the pace of the rollout given concerns around production shortages. Apple aims to distribute the iPhone 5 through 240 carriers worldwide by year-end, making it the fastest iPhone launch yet. Our iPhone unit estimates for the September quarter are unchanged at 23.43 million in case Apple faces product stock outs. However, we estimate iPhone unit sales will surge to 45.21 million, up 22.0% y/y and 93% q/q in the December quarter (F1Q13). We believe production plans call for about 50 million iPhone 5 units alone in the December quarter, not including older models and expect strong sales to continue through the New Year. The main driver of iPhone sales momentum into mid-calendar 2013 could be China, where Apple needs to strike a deal with China Mobile for the first time.

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