Did Apple Really Miss iPhone 5 Sales Expectations?

September 25th, 2012

So Apple reports that, through its first weekend on sale, over five million iPhone 5s were sold. That’s a million more than the iPhone 4s last year, and it sounds pretty good. In fact, it’s a record, but it wasn’t nearly good enough for some industry analysts and investors, as Apple’s stock price has taken a bit of a dive in the wake of the announcement.

Once again, reality and wishful thinking are at polar opposites.

Based on the report that Apple received two million preorders for the iPhone 5 last week, it was assumed that total sales for the first weekend must be in the six to eight million range. I suppose that makes sense, but that also assumes that many units would be available. As many of you know, most dealers were out of stock by Sunday, which clearly limited how many units would end up in the hands of customers.

Unlike the questionable statistics such companies as Samsung deliver, Apple based their figures on the number of new iPhones actually being delivered to customers. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said the original estimates were based on the assumption that Apple would count all preorders, whether or not they had actually been delivered. So there may be another million or so  iPhone 5s en route to customers that aren’t part of Apple’s launch weekend figures. Quick sellouts may indicate that, yes, yet another million or two units may have been sold had enough stock been available.

So the real significant figures may not be available until Apple releases the financial report for the September quarter in late October. It’s still possible for Apple to sell another few million between now and the end of the month, assuming there’s enough stock available. The original industry projections in the range of ten million units may indeed come to pass.

That Foxconn had to close one of their plants for a day or two due to employee riots isn’t going to help, but the units produced this week may not actually reach dealers until some time in October, so any impact won’t be felt this quarter. By next quarter, they might even catch up, though Munster doesn’t expect Apple to be able to fully meet iPhone 5 demand until the end of the year. Piper Jaffray is predicting sales of 49 million iPhones for the December quarter.

I also expect, as the iPhone 5 remains in short supply, investors will come to their senses yet again and stop selling Apple stock. But I never pretend to understand the quirks of Wall Street.

Unfortunately, there’s no much Apple could have done, other than build another few million copies of the iPhone 5, and it’s now reported that the unique in-cell display is the main production bottleneck. Based on those lines snaking around Apple Stores around the world, it’s clear there’s heavy demand, and that demand has yet to be satisfied. Today, if you want to order an iPhone 5 from Apple’s online store, expect to wait three to four weeks for delivery. So much for any lingering theory that there is a problem with demand for the product.

All this comes, however, on the same week that loads of users of iOS 6 discovered that the first version of Apple’s own Maps app isn’t perfect. While it has worked well for me, mostly at any rate, there are enough flaws to cause complaints, and sometimes outright freak outs. Do you ever wonder how many people complained about Google Maps until accuracy got real good? Did customers who received incorrect routes, or discovered missing landmarks, complain to the media in the numbers with which they complain about Apple now?

It’s not as if you can’t use Google Maps on any of the 100 million Apple mobile devices running iOS 6. Just point your browser to Google’s site, and use their service instead. Or don’t upgrade to iOS 6 until you feel assured that Apple has fixed the most serious mapping problems.

But a beta quality mapping service isn’t the only complaint. There are reports of possible Wi-Fi connection and performance issues that are said to be under investigation by Apple. Some people report scratches on the rear of the iPhone 5’s case, and that the aluminum backing is more prone to such ills. Since I always use a case, I won’t worry should I get an iPhone 5, but I can see where that may be a problem, assuming the scratches aren’t easily removed with a non-corrosive cleaning solution.

I would also expect that there will be other software and hardware issues that will come to the fore as more and more of you put an iPhone 5 into service. Some might require replacing the unit, others will likely be resolved with software updates. But the 24/7 news cycle is going to cause a feeding frenzy for any news that happens to make Apple look bad.

Meantime, I’ve seen little cause to worry about demand. If dealers were stuck with unsold stock, there would be a problem. Clearly those occasional claims that Apple is holding back stock to look good are just plain delusional. And that’s an understatement.

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One Response to “Did Apple Really Miss iPhone 5 Sales Expectations?”

  1. george kanakaris says:

    and not a word about the slaves who make this product…

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