Apple earnings preview: Big quarter expected for iPad, iPhone forecasts vary

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On Tuesday Apple will report earnings for its third quarter of fiscal 2012, and analysts expect the iPad will be in a position to set new records, while consensus on the iPhone is more divided.

Generally speaking, most investors believe Apple will report sales of between 25 million and 27 million iPhones, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. Mac sales are pegged at 4 million, while iPad sales are harder to nail down, but he believes expectations are between 15 million and 16 million.

If those iPad numbers hold true, it would put Apple in a position to beat its previous record of 15 million iPads reached in the holiday quarter of 2012. The number would also handily best the 9.25 million iPads sold in the year-ago quarter.

Munster believes Apple will report sales of about 16 million iPads when its earnings arrive after the market closes at 4 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. A conference call featuring Apple executives will occur at 5 p.m. Eastern, and AppleInsider will have full live coverage.

Meanwhile, Chris Whitmore of Deutsche Bank and Shaw Wu of Sterne Agee are both calling for iPad sales of 15 million in the June quarter.

AAPL average analyst estimates, via Thomson Reuters.

One of the more bullish iPad forecasts for the quarter came from Charlie Wolf of Needham & Company. He said earlier this month that he believes Apple will report record shattering sales of 20 million iPads in the June quarter, and he believes it's "only a matter of time" before iPad shipments exceed the iPhone.

For the iPhone, Whitmore has estimated 30 million iPhones, but cautioned that number could end up being "light" by as much as 2 million units. Munster is also more bullish than most analysts on Wall Street, and believes the number could be closer to 28 million or 29 million units, while White has called for sales of 28 million iPhones.

Wu said his industry checks have indicated iPhone sales will more likely be in the 26 to 28 million range, and he has accordingly forecast Apple to report sales of 27 million. He believes the slowdown in sales is attributable to anticipation of Apple's next-generation iPhone as opposed to weak demand.

As for the Mac, Wu has forecast sales of 4.3 million units, which he said is at the upper end of Wall Street expectations between 4 million and 4.3 million. Whitmore's projection is slightly above the market, as Deutsche Bank has advised its clients Apple has likely sold 4.4 million Macs during the June quarter.

Analysts are already looking to the future for Apple, and in particular have their eyes on the holiday quarter, when they expect the next iPhone will launch. Even with an anticipated sales lull in the September quarter as customers hold out for the next-generation iPhone, Wall Street analysts believe Apple's strong product momentum will continue going forward.

"Along with continued strong demand for iPad and Macs (spurred by the introduction of the new iPad, new MacBook Pro and Air lineups, etc.), we expect these product cycles to maintain Apple's momentum into 2013," Whitmore wrote.


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