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Verizon iPhone activations suggest better-than-expected Sept. quarter for Apple

Activation figures from Verizon show that sales of the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 were relatively strong prior to the launch of the iPhone 5, suggesting Apple's September quarter could be stronger than expected.

Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray noted that the 3.1 million iPhones activated by Verizon in the September quarter was a number up 15 percent from the prior June quarter. For Apple's own September quarter, Munster has forecast that total iPhone sales will be down 4 percent quarter over quarter.

Of the 3.1 million iPhones activated by Verizon in the quarter, 650,000 were of the newly released iPhone 5, which debuted at the end of the three-month period. That means the remaining 2.5 million iPhones activated by Verizon were of the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4.

"Verizon's iPhone number suggests that the slowdown of older iPhones may not have been as drastic as previously suspected," Munster wrote in a note to investors. "Based on Verizon's report, it appears that non-iPhone 5 sales were down 9% (quarter over quarter), while we are currently modeling Apple to see a 35% (quarter over quarter) decline due to the impact of customers waiting for the iPhone 5."

Munster has predicted that Apple will report sales of 25 million iPhones in the September quarter, a number he is "incrementally more comfortable" with following Verizon's earnings report.

iPhone 5

Maynard Um of Wells Fargo Securities has forecast a similar 25.5 million iPhone sales for the September quarter. He said Verizon's numbers put the carriers on track to account for about 12 percent of his total iPhone units.

"Given a historical range of 9.1%-11.6% in the prior 3 quarters, we believe Verizon's unit activation number supports our forecast and, in fact, suggests some potential upside," Um wrote. "Verizon has also noted that the lower pricing of the iPhone 4 and 4S helped to attract customers that were not on Verizon's network before and that there were some customers that paid full price for smartphones to keep their unlimited plan, though the majority of smartphones were subsidized."

Verizon's chief rival, AT&T, will report its own quarterly iPhone sales in its earnings call next Wednesday. Total iPhone sales for the September quarter, including iPhone 5 sales made in the last week of the quarter, will be revealed by Apple when the company announces its earnings the following day, Oct. 25.