Did Apple Sell 60 Million iPhones?

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Now comes the test. As Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) gets ready to announce its most recent quarterly results, the primary focus of investors will be on iPhone sales, because the smartphone continues to represent a huge portion of company revenue. If Apple discloses that it sold anything less than 60 million iPhones, shares may drop substantially. For some, a figure less than 70 million would disappoint.

With the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, many on Wall Street will not look at iPhone sales year over previous year’s quarter. Some investors will look at the quarter sequentially, to see if Apple can match the 74.5 million iPhones it sold in the immediately previous quarter. That quarter’s results were based on the iPhone launch, as well as sales over the holiday period. Those two factors pushed Apple’s revenue to $74.6 billion — a record.

Apple management muted expectations for the quarter that is about to be released. It forecast revenue of $52 billion to $55 billion. iPhone sales had an uncanny match to revenue in the holiday quarter at $74.5 billion in sales to 74.5 million iPhones. If the relationship remains, Apple sold 55 million iPhones in the most recent quarter.

Traditionally, Apple management guides low. If that trend continues, Apple’s revenue ought to be close to $60 billion. iPhone sales will need to reach 60 million to support that level of sales.

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While the iPhone was not brand new last quarter, the demand for the smartphone may not have tapered much. Carriers pitched the iPhone 6 hard to bring in or maintain customer bases. Apparently, iPhone 5 models continued to sell well.

For Apple, it is iPhone sales of 60 million or the quarter will be considered a disaster. The impression that the iPhone has made Apple invincible will get stripped away.