For the first time ever, some industry watchers are questioning how well Apple iPhones will sell out of the gate. Much of that speculation is based on pre-order figures, or the lack thereof. Now, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster is putting his two cents into the multimillion-dollar fray.
Munster on Wednesday afternoon issued a note that reveals his expectations for the new smartphones. He is predicting Apple will report sales of between 5 million and 6 million iPhone 5s and 5c devices during the first weekend alone. That would put the new devices in the same league with iPhone 5 sales over the first weekend.
"While the 5-6 million range may be viewed by some as a disappointment given that it will include China as a launch country for the first time, we believe our survey work suggests that demand is healthy, but slightly below where demand for the iPhone 5 was last year, which included a new form factor," Munster wrote.
The China Factor
How does that compare with the numbers other analysts are pushing out? Walter Piecyk at BTIG Research, is predicting a similar score. In his research note, he pointed out that Apple only added two markets to its iPhone launch day this year -- but one of them is China.
"That means that on day one it will be selling into markets with 2 billion wireless subscribers, which is more than twice as large as its launch day addressable market in each of the past four years of 670 to770 million wireless subscribers," Piecyk said.
As he sees it, Apple's first weekend sales should also benefit from the surge of customers who wait for price cuts on legacy models each year and will now be buying the new 5c. The legacy iPhone 5 is already out of stock online at AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile after price cuts last week, so that demand should now shift to the iPhone 5c, he said, noting that supply may be the only issue.
"The massive increase in the size of Apple's market launch and the inclusion of 5c sales should easily enable Apple to generate growth from the 5 million first weekend iPhone sales it reported last year, if they in fact elect to report this number," Piecyk said. "By counting the 5c as a 'new' phone Apple will be able to include the surge in purchases that occur each year from the price cuts for legacy phones. We think this will lead to at least 20 percent growth in iPhones sold in the first weekend to 6 million."
The Gold Factor
Those are the opinions from the Wall Street analysts. What about the technology analysts? For analysis, we turned to Roger Entner, a wireless analyst at Recon Analytics. He told us he is sure new Apple iPhones will sell strong.
"It's an iPhone. Apple is really industry-leading with loyalty -- they have 90- to 95-percent-plus customer loyalty," Entner said. "Consumers that get an Apple phone are in all likelihood getting another Apple iPhone afterword. That bodes pretty well."
He called the iPhone 5s a revolutionary change but it's also an evolutionary change. Even still, he is betting many around the world will buy the gold iPhone just because it's gold: "As small as the color may seem, it will be major driver, as big as the fingerprint scanning to access your phone."