Study: Demand for iPhones still strong, concern 'overblown'
Thursday, September 19, 2013 @ 12:23am
| Aside from the excitement surrounding Wednesday's release of iOS 7 and the coming arrival of new iPhones, Apple still has its investors and Wall Street to please, with sales results for the current quarter -- only the last two weeks of which will include the new products -- expected next month. A new study by AlphaWise (part of Morgan Stanley) that tracked Web search trends in key iPhone markets found that demand was still high through the quarter for iPhones, suggesting that Apple may sell some 34.5 million units.
That figure, a 15 percent quarterly increase and about even with the year-ago quarter, is higher than the current Wall Street consensus of 31 million. Analysts believe that iPhone demand dries up when a new iPhone model is imminent, but history suggests that the effect is less dramatic than generally thought, with demand for all three supported models still "healthy" even just before the launch of new models. This year, the calendar third quarter will have two weeks of iPhone 5s and 5c sales added to it.
AlphaWise looked at search trends in many of the iPhone's key markets, including China and Japan; the US and UK; and Germany and France. Analyst Katy Huberty believes that the fact that Apple now has three very distinct iPhone products -- the cutting-edge iPhone 5s, the trendy and colorful 5c and the entry-level iPhone 4S -- means that preorder indicators (or lack thereof) shouldn't be a big area of concern. Apple has not made its usual announcements touting the success of preorders, but unlike previous years only half of line of iPhone models is available for preorder, and the company prefers not to provide product-specific breakdowns of sales.
"We don't view preorders in 2013 as comparable to past years given the higher-end iPhone 5s, which is the more likely choice for early adopters, isn't available for pre-order," Huberty told clients. A number of potential buyers may be waiting to hold and examine the iPhone 5c in person before pre-ordering, given that the smartphone -- while functionally almost identical to the iPhone 5 -- uses a new external body material that customers may wish to handle before buying.
Huberty also hinted that the iPhone 5c -- which is clearly aimed at a younger and more trendy demographic -- appeal more to the types of buyers who don't normally preorder phones and prefer to buy it in shops. Both of the new iPhone models will debut on Friday, but spot checks with retailers suggest that both the iPhone 5c and 5s will be in short supply on launch day, particularly the iPhone 5s.