Apple sold 35-38 million iPhones last quarter, analysts say

An increase of up to 8 per cent

Apple sold about 38 million iPhones in the first quarter, an 8 per cent increase over what it sold in the same quarter a year ago, according to an analyst.

Brian Marshall of the ISI Group said he was sticking with his estimate of 38 million iPhones for the January-March quarter.

Others, including Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets and Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray, have placed their bets on lower numbers - 35 million and 35.5 million, respectively - for the quarter that ended March 31, flat or just one per cent above last year's number.

According to Fortune the median from forecasts of 48 analysts was 37 million, a 5.5 per cent increase year-over-year.

The experts, however, are looking ahead more than they're revising recent history.

Marshall, for example, predicted that Apple will release its next iPhone - which many have been tagging as the "iPhone 5S" in a nod to previous Apple naming conventions - in late June or early July. White has the same timetable in mind.

That would be a departure from the last two iterations of the smartphone - the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 - which went on sale in October 2011 and September 2012, respectively.

But the return of an iPhone launch to summer, a schedule last used in 2010 for the iPhone 4, faces at least one obstacle: Apple has not yet released a preview of its next iOS SDK (software development kit) to app makers.

In the two most-recent years when Apple has launched a new iPhone in June, it seeded developers with a new SDK several months in advance.

The first beta of the iOS 3 SDK, for example, was released March 17, 2009, 13 weeks before the retail debut of the iPhone 3GS. A preview of the iOS 4 SDK, meanwhile, reached developers April 8, 2010, or 11 weeks before the iPhone 4 went on sale.

If Apple plans to give developers the same amount of time to prep for iOS 7's changes, the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 timetables would point to an iPhone 5S on-sales date somewhere between July 4 and July 18, assuming the SDK appeared today.

More recent iOS SDK-iPhone timetables hint at an even later launch of the next iPhone, since the interval between the iOS 5 SDK and the iPhone 4S was 18 weeks, and that between the iOS 6 SDK and the iPhone 5 was 14 weeks. Those schedules suggest an iPhone 5S on-sales launch between July 25 (14 weeks from today) and Aug. 22 (18 weeks).

Either Apple will, best case, ship the next iPhone at the end of the analysts' estimates - early July - or the company will give developers less time to craft, or recraft, apps for iOS 7. The second could be trouble.

Marshall had no explanation for the missing SDK other than to note that iOS development was once headed by Scott Forstall, but with his departure last October, the reins were handed to Craig Federighi, who already led OS X development.

Jony Ive, formerly head of industrial design, was also put in charge of what Apple calls "Human Interface," the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) of its software.

Marshall speculated that the 2012 management overhaul, and Ive's new responsibilities, may have slowed down iOS development.

The same could be said for OS X 10.9, the successor to Mountain Lion, which has not been sighted in preview form either.

Timetables notwithstanding, Marshall and White expect Apple to be busy this year on the iPhone front: Both believe Apple will refresh not only its flagship iPhone, but also introduce a lower-priced model.

"My model implies a $US150 [bill of materials] for a low-cost iPhone, which translates into a $300-plus price," said Marshall in an interview today.

But after a swing through China and other Asian countries, and conversations with component suppliers there, Topeka Capital's White raised his price estimate.

"We are now projecting a $US350 to $US400 price point for the 'iPhone mini,'" said White in a research note last week. "We believe this price point will provide relief for those investors concerned that Apple would be sacrificing too much margin or brand to serve the lower price band of the smartphone market."

And what of another oft-discussed move by Apple, a bigger iPhone?

"If we don't pick up any data from suppliers that Apple is placing orders for 5-in. screens by the end of April, or in a couple of weeks, either the iPhone 5S will have the same-sized screen as the iPhone 5, or Apple will instead ramp [production] to the back half of the year," said Marshall.

Minus a lower-cost iPhone -- and a boost in the screen size to 5-in. of the flagship model -- Marshall said Apple would be staring at trouble later in the year. Failing either, his current estimate of 55 million iPhones for the year's fourth quarter would be unattainable.

"If the iPhone 5S is a 4.5-in. phone, and there is no low-cost iPhone, Apple would be lucky to ship 40 million in the fourth quarter," Marshall said.

Marshall's current fourth-quarter estimate of 55 million predicts a 15 per cent increase over sales during the same period in 2012. The lack of either a low-cost iPhone or a 5-in. model would translate into a 16% decline, year-over-year.

Apple will announce its first-quarter revenue and sales numbers on Tuesday, April 23, in an earnings call that will start at 2 pm (US Pacific Time). Unless it radically changes its policy of not discussing future products, it will remain tight-lipped about the next iPhone(s). But its projections for the third quarter may give analysts clues about the company's product ambitions in the second half of the year.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is

See more by Gregg Keizer on

Read more about macintosh in Computerworld's Macintosh Topic Center.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Appleconsumer electronicsiossmartphonesMacintoshsoftwareoperating systemsCapita

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?