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Apple is set to announce its June quarter earnings today — and more importantly, its forecast for the September quarter, which could include this year's big, new iPhone launch.
It's the mid-year trough of the current iPhone cycle, so expectations are modest. Wall Street expects Apple to report $44.9 billion of June quarter revenue, representing 6 percent year over year growth. That's somewhere around 40-41 million iPhone shipments for the quarter, with some analysts — notably, Above Avalon's Neil Cybart, at 38.8 million — expecting fewer.
But the real question is how Apple will forecast its fiscal fourth quarter, which ends in September — and carries some clues for this year's iPhone launch timing.
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Most years, the new iPhone launches in late September, with a nice, big launch weekend or two of shipments to end the quarter. This year, however, there's buzz that the anticipated super-high-end flagship iPhone might not launch until October or later, and could ship in limited quantities.
So will Apple be extra cautious and guide very conservatively? Or will it surprise the skeptics with confidence?
Right now, the Wall Street consensus for Apple's September-quarter revenue is $49.2 billion, representing 5 percent year-over-year growth. That almost certainly includes a September-quarter iPhone launch.
But Cybart, who expects Apple's new iPhone and Watch to ship in October, has produced a much lower forecast: A September-quarter guidance range of $43-45 billion, implying a year-over-year revenue decline.
"Could I be overthinking this?" Cybart asks in his excellent, subscriber-only newsletter. "Yes."
Either way, it's the December quarter that really matters — that's when Apple sells the most iPhones, will launch its HomePod speaker, have a new phone Apple Watch on the market, and more. We probably won't hear much about that today.
Join us for live Apple earnings coverage at 4:30pm ET, 1:30pm PT.
—By Dan Frommer, Recode.net.
CNBC's parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode's parent Vox, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.