Unit sales of the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone for the quarter about to be announced range between 44 million and 53 million, based on analyst estimates. Those figures are extraordinarily wide because of the number of analysts who follow the stock. The consensus estimate is 50 million, but that does not mean much with the current spread of forecasts. It is worth guessing that anything short of 50 million will be an extreme disappointment.
The iPhone is by far the largest contributor to Apple’s revenue. The revenue contribution was $51.6 billion of Apple’s $75.9 billion in its fiscal first quarter.
At stake is whether Apple will reach the high end or low end of Wall Street’s earnings estimates. According to Yahoo! Finance, the consensus earnings forecast for the quarter about to be announced is $2.00 per share, compared to $2.33 last year. However, the high end of estimate range is $2.17 and the low end $1.88. The spread of revenue is also wide, with a consensus of $52 billion against $58 billion in the year earlier. The high forecast is $54.5 billion, against a low of $49.7 billion. All numbers are based on the opinions of 34 analysts.
If Apple disappoints, investors have to look to the introduction of the iPhone 7, which probably will be in September. Many experts believe the iPhone 7 will have to be an extraordinary advance over the iPhone 6, and every other smartphone in the market. The changes from one generation of iPhone to another have been modest over the past two years. Apple needs a huge hit to overcome anxiety that the iPhone 7 will not be substantially better.
For investors, the stakes are high. Apple currently trades at $105, against a 52-week range of $92 to $134. The introduction of the iPhone SE has moved the shares higher. Lower than expect earnings would make the stock give up those gains, and probably more.
Apple’s shares were below $95 as recently as February. It will take the sale of over 50 million iPhones in the quarter about to be announced to keep it from a stumble back to that level.