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Although AT&T provided few details on how many iPhones the carrier sold this quarter, several analysts are upping their estimates based on consensus that Apple will report record-breaking sales. The Apple smartphone has “general strength across the board” with sales hovering around 30 million units for the three-month period.
Maynard Um, analyst with UBS Equity Research, Wednesday night raised his iPhone sales estimate to 30 million for the holiday period, up from his previous 28 million forecast. “We believe that there is a general strength across the board for iPhone demand,” he told investors.
Both Sterne Agee’s Shaw Wu and J.P. Morgan increased their iPhone sales estimates to 28 million. Wu noted the iPhone strength is spread across the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS, as well as the newer iPhone 4S. Wednesday, AT&T announced it was on track to sell more than 6.1 million smartphones during the fourth quarter, smashing its previous high-water mark of 6 million. The carrier sold more than 1 million iPhone 4S handsets during the first five days of its availability. Apple sold 4 million iPhone 4S units in the first three days, more than double that of the 2010 launch of the iPhone 4.
While demand for the iPhone is still going strong, analysts revised slightly downward their expectations for the iPad. Um expects Apple will sell 12 million tablets, while J.P. Morgan’s Mark Moskowitz expects iPad sales will fall to 13 million, down from his previously projected 13.3 million. Wu appears to see the sharpest decline, writing Apple could sell 13.5 million iPads, down from 15 million.
The reason for the lower expectations for the iPad’s quarterly sales is economic pressure. “As consumer wallet constraints persist, some may not be able to buy multiple iProducts simultaneously and may be opting for one larger ticket item with more functionality,” Um reasons.
The increase in iPhone expectations should not come as a surprise. Along with the much-heralded Siri, the iPhone 4S offers razor sharp photography and a third carrier – Sprint. In addition, lowering the iPhone 4 price to $99 enabled more iPhone 3GS owners to upgrade, broadening demand for the iconic handset. In my family, two people have already joined the iPhone camp via the lower iPhone 4 pricing.
As for the slump in iPad demand, it could be a case of “older” technology combined with talk of an iPad 3 appearing in early 2012. The iPad 2 has been around for some time, enough for its newness to start wearing thin. Apple may not want to delay that introduction, learning a lesson from the slump of iPhone 4 handsets we saw as consumers waited for the “iPhone 5.”