Apple's Q2 results: Are Qualcomm, iPhone 5 worries overblown?

Apple may deliver more iPhones than expected in the March quarter and iPad units should be solid. Mac units could be light.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Apple is expected to deliver strong second quarter earnings, but analysts will be looking for any comments about the company's ability to manage through a potential shortage of Qualcomm chips for the iPhone 5.

Wall Street is expecting Apple to report second quarter earnings of $10.02 a share on revenue of $36.7 billion.

As for Apple's outlook, which is typically lowballed, the company is expected to report third quarter earnings of $9.91 a share on revenue of $37.34 billion.

Among the key Apple barometers to watch: iPhone units. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster is projecting Apple to deliver 30 million to 33 million iPhone units in the March quarter. That estimates is based on Verizon's tally of 3.2 million iPhone activations. Munster is betting on 33 million iPhone units due to growth in China and other countries.

iPhone units in the future. Qualcomm last week indicated that it was seeing a supply squeeze on 28nm chips. Many observers took Qualcomm's comments as a warning that the likely chip behind the iPhone 5 would be supply constrained. However, there's a possibility that these worries about the iPhone 5 are overblown. Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said Apple's supply chain clout may come into play. Misek said in a research note:

We continue to believe the iPhone 5 will be launched in early September. But due to the 28nm capacity issues Qualcomm expressed, there could be fewer handsets than desired at launch time or the launch could be delayed until October. We believe Apple and Qualcomm are in strong discussions over supplies of the 8960 baseband (for iPhone 5). We also believe Apple will pressure TSMC to prioritize capacity for Qualcomm.

The iPhone 5 launch date. Given Qualcomm's comments, analysts are betting on an October lift-off for the iPhone 5. Keep in mind that Apple CEO Tim Cook (right) isn't going to say anything on launch dates.

iPad units. Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu is projecting iPad units to be about 12.3 million. iPad unit estimates have been creeping higher in recent weeks.

Mac sales light? Analysts have been worried about Mac sales and cutting their unit projections accordingly. For instance, Wu is projecting 4.3 million Mac units, down from 4.7 million. The worries about the Mac picked up after NPD reported that Mac units fell 16 percent in March. Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes noted that the iPad likely cannibalized Mac sales. There's also a product refresh on deck.

iPod units. Analysts barely mention the iPod these days because they are financially immaterial to Apple. Misek expects 7.1 million iPods to ship in the quarter.

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