The tech industry is known for its superlatives. However, in the wake of the iPhone 4’s introduction, analysts have been caught off-guard, using words like “ginormous” and “huge” to describe interest in Apple’s new handset. Now a prominent Apple-watcher believes the number of iPhone users could jump from last year’s 30 million to 100 million by the end of 2011.
Morgan Stanley’s Katy Huberty told investors Wednesday night she believes more than 50 percent of current iPhone owners will upgrade to the iPhone 4. If 50 percent of iPhone owners upgrade, that means Apple will sell 48 million handsets, she projected. Noted Mac analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffrey envisions a very similar outcome. Predicting Apple will sell 9.5 million iPhone during the June financial quarter, Munster pointed to a recent Wall Street Journal survey suggesting 62 percent of iPhone customers say they will upgrade.
Even taking Huberty’s low 50 percent of upgrades, the figure is more than two as high as previous upgrade rates. A 2008 survey found an 18 percent upgrade rate or 25 percent since the original iPhone was introduced in 2007, according to Apple 2.0.
But what is driving the rush to upgrade? Certainly, the additional features, such as a video camera, are a factor. Huberty also points out that 57 percent of the installed iPhone base cannot use the full capabilities (such as multitasking) offered by iOS4. Most analysts also agree AT&T’s generous upgrade offer is making a difference.
On Wednesday, Apple reported 600,000 iPhone 4s were sold.