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iPhone sales top 9M, set record for opening weekend

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 24, 2013
Apple trumps analysts' estimates, but iPhone 5s shortages impede sales

The iPhone 5s

Apple today said it had sold over 9 million iPhones during the opening three-day weekend of sales, an 80% increase over last year's launch of the iPhone 5 and a record by a major margin.

"This is our best iPhone launch yet -- more than 9 million new iPhones sold -- a new record for first weekend sales," said Apple CEO Tim Cook in a statement.

The 9 million includes units sold worldwide through Apple's own retail stores, those through its carrier partners' stores, and the iPhone 5C smartphones delivered Friday or Saturday from pre-sales of the new plastic-cased, lower-priced model which started Sept 13.

Apple began selling the iPhone 5C and the flagship iPhone 5S early Friday, Sept. 20. The tally also presumably includes sales of the iPhone 4S, which Apple has retained to cover the low end of its three-model sales tier.

Wall Street analysts said the 9 million sales figure blew by their estimates.

"We had expected 6 million over opening weekend and believe demand is proving much stronger than anticipated," said Brian Marshall of ISI Group in a note to clients Monday. Marshall, who said that earlier records had been "blown away" by the opening, also told investors that his previous estimate of 50 million iPhones for the fourth quarter -- the one that will end Dec. 31 -- was plainly on the conservative side.

Brian White of Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. was even more bullish on the iPhone numbers. "This is well above our estimate of 6 million to 6.5 million that was at the high end of expectations ... and is very big for Apple," White wrote to his clients today. Adding that the iPhone 5C in particular "defies the critics," he added that "criticism of the iPhone 5C as being too expensive versus expectations, and thus demand would be muted, were proven wrong."

White was referring to expectations prior to the Sept. 10 unveiling of the iPhone 5C that had centered on a much lower price -- free with a mobile carrier contract and as low as $300 sans a contact -- of the new handset. Instead, others argued, Apple stuck to its long-running premium-price strategy, reminding everyone, consumers most of all, that the iPhone is a top-tier smartphone linked to a luxury brand.

Apple priced the iPhone 5C in the U.S. at $99 with a two-year contract for the 16GB model, with a $549 unsubsidized price tag.

Along with the sales announcement, Apple also told Wall Street it was more optimistic about the current quarter revenue. "Apple expects total company revenue for the fourth fiscal quarter to be near the high end of the previously provided range of $34 billion to $37 billion, and expects gross margin to be near the high end of the previously provided range of 36% to 37%," Apple said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) today.


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