So will there be another frenzy? The first two times Apple (AAPL) started selling new iPhones - the original version and then the follow-up 3G version - Apple and AT&T (T) stores were jammed with customers eager to buy. Friday is round three: the company debuts new models (and new price points) for the iPhone.
Pricing for qualified customers is $299 for the new 32 GB iPhone 3G S, $199 for the 16 GB version and $99 for the old 8 GB version. The really interesting question is whether the new low priced model will drive a jump in market share, as many analysts believe. And as I noted Wednesday, there’s also some question about whether for many existing customers, the iPhone OS software upgrade that rolled out Wednesday will be a big enough improvement that they will hold off on a hardware upgrade.
RBC Capital analyst Mike Abramsky expects the company to sell between 500,000 and 700,000 units in the first weekend, down from 1 million on the opening weekend for the iPhone 3G. He expects 18 million overall iPhone units in the September 2009 fiscal year, with 28 million in FY 2010, boosting the company’s global market share in handsets to 2.4%.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster sees opening weekend sales of 500,000, or half the number sold when the iPhone 3G launched, but well above the 270,000 sold in the first weekend for the original iPhone. He notes that the phones this time are launching in just 8 countries, compared with 21 last time. (The rest will catch up later in the summer.) Munster writes that he increasingly comfortable with his June quarter estimate that the company will sell 5 million units.
Meanwhile, Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves advised investors to expect some margin decline in coming quarters, and advised investors to focus on gross profit dollars, rather gross margin. He trimmed his EPS estimates today, cutting FY 2009 to $5.64 from $5.82, with FY 2010 down to $6.61 from $7. However, he raised his revenue forecast for both years: he now sees FY 2009 at $35.69 billion, up from $35.54 billion, with FY 2010 now at $41.07 billion, up from $39.33 billion.
AAPL Thursday is up $2.05, or 1.5%, to $137.63.