Should Investors Be Concerned About Apple's Silence?


For the past three years, Apple has issued releases on iPhone pre-order activity. This year, however, Apple is silent on the matter. Could this be a bad sign for Apple's iPhone launch?

iPhone 5c. Source: Apple.

High expectations
Battling high expectations is an ongoing struggle for Apple. And it's no different with Apple's iPhone sales numbers for the newly launched iPhones. The company's choice not to report iPhone pre-orders on the opening weekend has sparked speculation that orders may not have been robust enough to please investors.

But there's also a chance that Apple's silence has nothing to do with the numbers and more to do with Apple's unusual launch. This is the first time Apple has introduced two new iPhone models. Even more, Apple is only accepting pre-orders for the iPhone 5c, and not the iPhone 5s. So there's certainly a chance that Apple isn't releasing numbers due to the unusual comparison.

Whatever Apple's reasons for not announcing pre-orders, investors are curious. The company has some incredible numbers to live up to. iPhone pre-orders during the first twenty-four hours have increased dramatically over the last three years: 600,000, 1 million, and 2 million in 2010, 2011, and 2012, respectively. Will Apple be able to keep up the trend?

According to these three sources, pre-orders may not be off to a very exciting start. For Apple to impress investors, numbers would have to exceed last year's 2 million by a good margin. Not only did Apple add Japan's largest carrier, NTT DoCoMO, to the launch, but this is the first time that China has been included at launch.

Tapping into the rumor mill
Predictions for the preorders numbers vary. They may have hit 2.2 million in the first twenty-four hours, according to Citi analyst Glen Yeung. Reuters' "carrier source" says that 5c orders are "not overwhelming." For China's second-largest wireless carrier, China Unicom, "online preorders for the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C have exceeded 100,000 units, sharply lower than the more than 300,000 units that were preordered online for the iPhone 5," according to The Wall Street Journal.

Should investors be concerned?
Not necessarily. Though the rumor mill suggests that iPhone 5c sales may not be living up to the hype generated by its predecessor, the unusually structured launch could encourage peculiar consumer behavior. So, even if Yeung's estimate of 2.2 million pre-orders is accurate, few conclusions can be drawn.

However, Apple investors should definitely keep an eye on weekend sales numbers. For comparison, last year iPhone 5s sales topped five millionduring the opening weekend. Since Apple is often supply constrained (not demand limited) during the opening weekend, the number Apple reports (if it chooses to) will be more indicative of Apple's supply than its demand. Still, the number will be the first number that gives us some insight into the success of Apple's launch.

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