|March-quarter iPhone sales should come in stronger than has otherwise been forecast, says Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty. Using the financial firm's "Alphawise Smartphone Tracker," Huberty suggests that Apple will record 42 million iPhones, up from the 37.4 million the company sold in the same quarter last year. Alphawise is based off web search analysis, but has proven reasonably accurate in the past, for instance suggesting 50.5 million phones in the December quarter. Actual sales were about 51 million.
Supply chain data is said to point to just 38 million phones for the current quarter, which would be a marginal increase year-over-year. Huberty argues that this may be because suppliers kick into overdrive during the holidays, but slow down in the following quarter, making them a less accurate gauge.
The supply data is also said to be unreliable because of factors like changes to US carrier policies and plans, which could spur smartphone sales. Retailers like Best Buy and Walmart have also been running discounts for the iPhone 5s and 5c, which could similarly fuel demand.