Can the iPhone 5 Double Apple's Lifetime iPhone Unit Sales?


A new iPhone is coming. This we know. Sept. 12 is the rumored date for the device's unveiling, which is less than a month away. Many are expecting to see unprecedented upgrade activity to drive tremendous sales, and Apple (NAS: AAPL) is already seeing speculation of the new model affecting its results. iPhone unit sales dropped 9 million sequentially in the fiscal third quarter as prospective buyers held off in anticipation of the next iPhone.

The latest analyst to chime in with massive estimates is Craig Berger, an FBR Capital Markets analyst who expects the device, be it named the "iPhone 5" or otherwise, to sell upwards of 250 million units throughout its lifetime, generating incremental earnings per share of $50 over that timeframe. Based on an average selling price of $575, that turns into almost $144 billion in sales and an estimated $47 billion in profit.

Berger notes that extended upgrade policies among carriers could potentially have a negative effect on domestic market share, but he also believes that upgrades rely more heavily on product launches nowadays instead of eligibility status. One key factor in getting to that 250 million mark is the assumption that China Mobile (NYS: CHL) will finally be brought on as an official carrier, probably sometime in early 2013. Berger estimates that 13 million units in the first half of 2013 will be sold on China's largest carrier.

He has dubbed it the "iPhone 5 Tsunami," saying it will buoy the entire mobile sector, and highlights chipmakers Qualcomm (NAS: QCOM) and Fairchild Semiconductor (NYS: FCS) as key beneficiaries to the iPhone upside. Qualcomm provides the baseband modems while Fairchild sources power supply chips.

For additional context, 250 million is more iPhones than Apple has sold throughout the entire product's lifetime. Through last quarter, cumulative iPhone unit sales stood at 244.2 million, so we'd be talking about seeing the newest model double lifetime unit sales over its life cycle, which could span several years.

Even though Apple shares now sit at all-time highs, there's a lot to look forward to. Sign up for The Motley Fool's new Apple research service to get everything you need to know about the iPhone maker, complete with free quarterly updates.

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