updated 10:58 pm EDT, Wed October 17, 2012
Results to be reported in conference call on October 25
Guessing that strong opening-week sales of the iPhone 5 may offset customers who held back from buying in the three months prior, a quarterly roundup of analyst estimates (both Wall Street and independent) for how many iPhones were sold by Apple in the company's fiscal fourth quarter (which ended on September 30) has a mean average of 26.3 million units, slightly higher than the number sold in Q3. Because iPhones make up the bulk of the company's revenues, its sales are a leading indicator of how other products will do.
Though Apple reported a global sellout of pre-orders for the iPhone 5, it is thought that those may have added only around two million to the five million reported by Apple to have been sold over the opening weekend of availability. Difficulty in securing enough 4-inch screens and some shortages in other parts is thought to have made it difficult for Apple to get enough stock out to stores for the opening weekend.
The iPhone 5 was available for more than a full week prior to the end of the quarter, and stores reported getting additional shipments as the week went on. Thus far the company has not said how many units were sold in total.
The combined average of the 60 analysts polled by Fortune for its roundup came up with a mean estimate of 26.3 million units (and median of 27 million), ranging from a high (among the indies) of 32.3 million and (among the Wall Streeters) 29.9 million to a low of 21 million (indies) and 21.68 million (Wall Street). The roundup has traditionally found that the pros are more conservative in their estimates, but the consensus of the enthusiasts is usually both higher and generally more accurate than the Wall Street consensus. Interestingly, both the highest of the estimates and the lowest came from two different analysts from the same company -- Braeburn Group.
Regardless of how well the iPhone does in Apple's fiscal Q4 2012, it will be expected to break records in the company's 2013 first quarter, which covers the last three months of the calendar year -- including the holiday buying season. More widespread availability of the iPhone 5, along with very strong adoption of iOS 6 and a wider range of countries in which the product is available will likely boost year-over-year sales in the quarter. Further momentum may come from the iPad's ongoing growth, the arrival of a rumored "iPad mini" and the refreshing of the iPod lineup.
Taken separately, the consensus of the independents' guesses on iPhone sales was 27.4 million, while the Wall Street consensus was 25.4 million. Apple will announce the results of their year-end and fiscal fourth quarter results in a conference all after the markets close on Thursday, October 25. As usual, the call will be available for live streaming and later playback from Apple's investor page.