Huge iPhone Sales, Short Lines at Stores

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The most well-known Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) analyst, Gene Munster, predicts that iPhone 8 and iPhone X sales will be huge, but lines outside Apple stores will be small. Based on past iPhone sales patterns, the analysis makes little sense.

Munster, a Loup Ventures analyst, wrote:

This week we surveyed 388 consumers in the U.S. across all demographics and found that of those planning to buy an iPhone in the next year, 25% plan on purchasing an iPhone X and 39% and iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. We are modeling for iPhone X to be 20% of units over the next year, and iPhone 8 and 8 Plus to be 25% of units over the next year. Said another way, the survey suggested 64% of iPhones in the next year will be either the iPhone X, iPhone 8, or 8 Plus, compared to our current model of 45%. While we are encouraged by this survey, we are keeping our iPhone mix estimates unchanged to err on the side of conservatism.

He added:

We will be making our annual pilgrimage to a handful of Apple retail stores to count lines and more importantly, survey people regarding their intended purchases. The lines have been declining over the past two years. For example, the line at the 5th Avenue New York store declined from 1,880 people in 2014, to 650 in 2015, and 400 last year. Given the most current version of the iPhone is split between the iPhone X and iPhone 8, and more people are purchasing their phones online or through the iPhone upgrade program, our best guess is that lines will be less than half as long as we observed in 2016.

These don’t seem to be scientific samples, but Munster has been right about Apple sales so often that the conclusions should not be discounted.

Munster’s evaluation runs counter to many others. Apple’s shares have fallen recently because of concerns about early iPhone 8 sales. Some experts believe that the iPhone 8 is not enough of an upgrade from the iPhone 7. Others think consumers will wait a month after the iPhone 8 launch to try the iPhone X and then make a purchase decision.

As has always been the case with iPhone launches, the litmus test of demand will come in the first few days. If Munster is right, he will burnish his reputation as the person to turn to for Apple sales predictions.