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One key stat explains why Apple investors are excited for an iPhone 'supercycle'

  • Over 300 million Apple users are on iPhone models that are two years old or older, analyst turned capitalist Gene Munster said.
  • Analysts surveyed by Factset are expected unit sales of 241 million iPhones in the next fiscal year.
  • Apple is expected to release three new iPhones later this year, including a special anniversary edition model.

Apple investors are excited by the prospect of a "supercycle" in its next fiscal year, driven by the next generation of iPhones, and it appears the market for people who want to upgrade their devices could be over 300 million.

In a note released Monday, former Apple analyst turned venture capitalist Gene Munster, estimates that there will be an install base of more than 300 million iPhones this fall that are more than two years old.

The iPhone 6s will turn two in September after being released in 2015. So this more than 300 million figure cited by Munster means people on the 6s or below may be looking to upgrade to new models.

Munster, who now works at Loup Ventures, said the "strong base of potential customers" is fueling investor expectations of unit sales of new iPhones between 235 million and 245 million for the fiscal year beginning October 2017.

Analysts surveyed by Factset are expecting unit sales of 241 million iPhones in the next fiscal year.

Apple is expected to unveil three new iPhones later this year with one being an anniversary edition model which is expected to be packed with top features.

Munster's estimates about the older iPhone install base seem to chime with other forecasts.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Tim Long said in a recent note that the install base of iPhones is 715 million. Long predicts that this will grow 13 percent by the end of the year, which would bring the total to around 807 million. The analyst said that this year, a third of iPhone owners will be on models that are more than two years old, which is roughly 266 million.

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, attends the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 6, 2016 in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, attends the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 6, 2016 in Sun Valley, Idaho.

For now, investors are likely to see soft iPhone growth over the next couple of quarters leading up to the release of new phones. Analysts surveyed by Factset are expecting 52 million iPhone units to have been sold in Apple's first fiscal quarter, up from 51.2 million last year.

Citing a March survey by 451 Research of 4,075 North American consumers, UBS said buying intent for smartphones over the next 90 days fell to an all-time low of 8.3 percent. But the investment bank said investors should not be worried.

"Our view is that these trends are primarily product cycle-related. The finding that iPhone buying intent is down at the same time overall buying intent is weak likely means that a large proportion of non-purchasers were iPhone owners. These users have not yet decided to switch brands," UBS said in a note released Monday.