Apple’s rapid international rollout of the new iPhone 5 has prompted many analysts to upgrade their sales forecasts for the smartphone, with some suggesting it could sell almost twice as many in the opening weekend as the iPhone 4 two years ago.
Apple intends to launch the iPhone 5 in nine countries on September 21, including the US and UK, adding Hong Kong and Singapore to its opening-weekend line-up for the first time. Another 20 countries will follow a week later, including Poland and New Zealand to this first wave.
“We are positively surprised that this iPhone rollout is Apple's fastest yet,” said analysts at Barclays. They had expected constraints in Apple suppliers’ capacity to ramp up production of components for the iPhone’s new thinner touchscreen.
Sterne Agee, a brokerage, on Thursday raised its forecast iPhone sales for the three months to the end of September from 23m to 26m and added 1m to its December forecast to 46m.
RBC Capital Markets analysts said the iPhone 5 could be Apple’s “biggest upgrade in the company’s history” in a note to clients, suggesting that it could sell 8–10m units by end of the September quarter, resulting in up to $5bn of incremental revenues.
Investors responded to the upgrades by driving Apple shares more than 2 per cent higher, to touch a new intraday high of $683.70 during New York trading on Thursday.
After the iPhone 4 sold around 113,000 units a day in each country and the 4S 191,000, Horace Dediu, independent analyst at Asymco, estimates that Apple's latest smartphone could reach 220,000, totalling 6m units in the launch weekend.
The addition of Hong Kong and Singapore to the iPhone 5’s first launch regions is particularly significant, said Mr Dediu, because they are lively retail markets that are also popular spots for people to buy iPhones for sale in China’s grey market.
However, Apple has not yet revealed when the new smartphone will go on sale in China, its largest market after the US.
According to IDC, a market research firm, Apple’s share of the Chinese market almost halved to 10 per cent in the three months to the end of June, leaving it ranked fourth behind Samsung, Lenovo and ZTE in the region.
Some analysts are concerned that without China, a huge spike in demand in the run-up to Christmas will leave Apple with a New Year hangover. In July, Apple missed Wall Street forecasts with its third-quarter iPhone sales, as buyers waited for the new model or switched to rivals such as Samsung’s Galaxy SIII.
“Product cycles are becoming more compressed with greater number of sales up front and a quicker subsequent drop off,” said Walter Piecyk, analyst at BTIG.