updated 09:45 pm EDT, Mon October 7, 2013
New iPhones only available last 10 days in month, portends strong sales
In part due to the frenzy of buying that accompanied the debut of the latest iPhone models, Taiwan-based suppliers have indicated to Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White that sales for Apple jumped between nine and 10 percent compared to August. In the same breath, however, White told investors that he expects Apple's sales overall to be down three to four percent from the previous quarter, in part because the new iPhone 5s went to backorder status so quickly.
Apple itself had previously guided analysts that sales would be down slightly from the previous quarter, and such a prediction is becoming traditional for this time of year from the company. It has effectively reset the annual iPhone refresh from mid-summer to September, and reset the annual iPad launches to sometime in October -- with both of Apple's two top-selling product lines now hitting full sales availability in the company's fiscal first quarter, the holiday buying season.
On top of that, only the MacBook Air and iMac were refreshing during the calendar third quarter, with the latter only appearing at the tail end of the quarter. Refreshed MacBook Pros with the new Haswell processor, alongside a much-awaited and revamped Mac Pro, aren't expected to appear until sometime this month at the earliest. This gives the company a very top-heavy first fiscal quarter for debut products -- but Apple did recently reset its guidance upwards for the just-past quarter's sales, in part due to the success of the iPhone launch.
Given the limited number of days the new iPhones were available in September, and that they were only available in selected launch countries, the ability of the new devices to bring Apple's sales up so significantly would suggest that both the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c are doing better than some analysts expect. One analyst predicted that the mix of 5s and 5c is closer to 50/50 than most would anticipate, but Apple has been more aggressively marketing the colorful 5c to a younger, trendier demographic for whom the 5c would still represent a significant upgrade for all but those who already own an iPhone 5.
White doesn't believe Apple will miss earnings on its earlier guidance, and may still surprise analysts as it so often does on final figures. The expansion of the new iPhones into China and other markets going forward, coupled with the expectation of at least a new full-size "iPad 5" (and perhaps a refreshed iPad mini as well) will be a "significant" product update that could appear later this month will help ensure a record holiday quarter.
White pointed out in his letter that of the "155 million iPads sold through September" [his estimate], a sizable portion of the iPad base is ripe to purchase a new full-size iPad -- particularly if rumors of a substantial reduction in weight turn out to be true. There has also been speculation that the coming iPad mini refresh will see the introduction of a Retina-quality screen -- though it should be noted that not having the feature hasn't hurt sales of the Mini in any appreciable way.