Could Indie Apple Observers Beat Wall Street Predictions — Again?


The iPhone 5 probably won't look like this... or arrive in June.
The iPhone 5 probably won't look like this... or arrive in June.

The prevailing Wall Street consensus is that Apple will report later this month iPhone sales of around 29 million handsets. But one expert is questioning that figure, suggesting official analysts could be way too conservative amid yet another historic sales period for the Cupertino, Calif. tech giant.

UBS analyst Maynard Um on Wednesday took a look at recently-announced holiday sales period iPhone sales figures coming from U.S. carriers, telling investors actual fourth quarter sales may be as high as 43.6 million smartphones – or nearly 50 percent higher than analyst estimates.

While relaying U.S. carrier sales numbers, Um also took a historical look-back and offered some much-needed skepticism on the Wall Street consensus. If AT&T sold about 8 million iPhones, Sprint sold another 1.2 million units and Verizon 4.2 million more during the period, that would result in U.S. sales alone comprising around 45 percent of the 30 million.

But what about Apple’s much-vaunted international push and the trend away from mature markets such as the U.S. and toward China, Asia and South America? The U.S. was just 25 to 29 percent of iPhone sales during 2011, Um notes. Not since 2009 have U.S. sales played such a large role in Apple handset demand.

But if the 43.6 million unit number is correct — which Um dismisses as unlikely — it would mean professional analysts could be off by as much as 50 percent and traditionally more bullish independent analysts are on to something. According to Fortune, independent analysts are forecasting Apple will report 43.1 million iPhones were sold for the fiscal first quarter.

Those independent analysts could use some good news. They’re reputation took a beating when Apple unveiled lower numbers due to the delayed introduction of the iPhone 4S.

Will the pros or the indys win this round? We’ll need to tune in Jan. 24 when Apple releases its official quarterly financial report.