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Wednesday, January 11, 2012, 12:32 pm PT (03:32 pm ET)

Strong sales of iPhone 4S a precursor to 'monster' launch of redesigned 'iPhone 5'

With iPhone sales over the holiday quarter expected to exceed 30 million, despite the fact that the iPhone 4S features the same form factor as its predecessor, one analyst believes the launch of a completely redesigned next-generation iPhone later this year will be a "monster."

Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray sent a note to investors on Wednesday, in which he increased his projected iPhone sales for the just-concluded December quarter from 26 million to 30 million. He said that total remains conservative, as the latest domestic data from the NPD Group suggests sales could be as high as 34 million in the quarter.

But record setting iPhone sales aren't the biggest story for Apple, in Munster's eyes. Instead, he's looking toward the future, with a redesigned next-generation redesigned iPhone, which he believes is going to accelerate Apple's growth even further than the current iPhone 4S.

"If Apple sells 30 (million)-plus iPhones in Dec., with no new form factor, up from 17.1m in Sept., it would be evidence supporting our survey work indicating that 94% of iPhone users plan to upgrade to a new iPhone," Munster wrote. "This theme suggests iPhone 5, which we are expecting in Aug. with a new form factor, will be a monster upgrade."

Munster believes the iPhone will represent 48 percent of Apple's sales in the December quarter. Official earnings will be revealed by Apple after markets close on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

As for the iPad, Munster sees the touchscreen tablet taking up 21 percent of Apple's total sales, with 13.5 million units sold in the quarter. He said informal checks during the holiday shopping season showed iPad demand was up 68 percent year over year from similar checks performed in 2010. He believes Apple will launch a third-generation iPad in April.

Finally, Munster has forecast the Mac will account for 17 percent of Apple's sales in the December quarter. His estimates call for Apple to have sold 5.2 million units in the quarter, an increase of 25 percent year over year.

Piper Jaffray


If his projections prove accurate, it would be a record quarter for all three of Apple's major product categories. Previous bests for the iPad and Mac came last quarter with sales of 11.2 million and 4.9 million, respectively, while the iPhone record was set in the June quarter with sales of 20.34 million handsets.

Piper Jaffray has maintained its "overweight" rating for AAPL stock, and reiterated that it is the firm's top pick for 2012 with a price target of $607. He believes Apple's revenue for the December quarter will be $40.19 billion, good for $10.50 earnings per share.