Speculation over whether or not Verizon will get a contract to sell the iPhone is pointless. But no matter the outcome, Apple is on track to sell at least 35 million of the iconic handsets in 2011, an analyst told investors Friday.
Merrill Lynch analyst Scott Craig said selling 33 million iPhones this year is “basically achievable” this year, no matter if Verizon becomes the second handset carrier this year or AT&T remains Apple’s exclusive carrier throughout the remainder of 2010.
Although Wall Street expects 44 million iPhones will sell in 2011, that consensus is contingent on either Verizon becoming an Apple carrier or another major change, such as a pick-up in foreign markets or a new iPhone model introduced.
According to Craig, if Apple makes no big announcements, including picking Verizon as a second U.S. carrier, the Cupertino, Calif. company would likely report 35 million iPhones sold in 201 – that’s 1.5 million units higher than the analyst had previously forecast. However, should Apple expand its iPhone partnerships beyond AT&T – including possibly Verizon – that sales figure could jump to 55 million handsets next year, the analyst said.
In February, a number of analysts suggested AT&T could remain the exclusive U.S. iPhone carrier through 2011. Apple’s decision to use AT&T as the network for the yet-to-ship iPad tablet device points to a “vote of confidence” in the New York-based carrier, Barclays Capital analyst Vija Jayant said. Financial analysts at Credit Suisse even said there was a 75 percent chance AT&T would keep iPhone exclusivity for another year.
This indecision about whether Verizon will or won’t receive the nod from Apple is having an impact on how Wall Street views the company. Last month, Credit Suisse downgraded Verizon to Neutral from Outperform, citing the uncertainty.