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

Gregg Keizer | April 19, 2013
Apple sold approximately 38 million iPhones in the first quarter, an 8% increase over what it sold in the same quarter a year ago, an ISI Group analyst said today. Other analysts pegged the sales number at 35 million.

Apple sold approximately 38 million iPhones in the first quarter, an 8% increase over what it sold in the same quarter a year ago, an analyst said today.

Brian Marshall of the ISI Group said today 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 1% above last year's number.

According to Fortune the median from forecasts of 48 analysts was 37 million, a 5.5% 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.


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