Apple proudly reported earlier today that during the first 72 hours of iPhone 5 sales, 5 million devices have found a new owner. From Apple's perspective, this is an extremely huge number, because it surpasses the iPhone 4S sales, but it's disappointing from the point of view of investors, Apple stock owners and analysts. Let me explain why.
When Apple announced 2 million pre-orders, analysts -- including Gene Munster, a respectful and renowned Apple analyst -- thought the sales would be double, just like the number of pre-orders (the iPhone 4S recorded 1 million pre-orders in the first 24 hours, while the iPhone 5 doubled that amount). While the reasoning is pretty straightforward, Gene Munster estimated that Apple will sell about 6–10 million iPhone 5 units during the first weekend of sales. And that didn't happen. It only recorded 5 million, compared to the iPhone 4S's 4 million.
An interesting fact to note here: Apple launched the iPhone 4S in seven countries and posted a record 4 million unit sales. The iPhone 5 hit the stores in nine countries on September 21, and Apple only sold 5 million units during the weekend. This is odd from the analysts’ perspective, but Apple seems to be satisfied with the numbers.
What is unclear at this moment is whether or not this number includes pre-orders. Gene Munster was in a rush to clarify: Piper Jaffray's forecast included all phones pre-ordered online, which may add an additional 1 million to Apple's recently published iPhone 5 unit sales, so the company will meet expectations. Another analyst, Brian White of Topeka Capital, said: "We believe this shortfall is largely due to supply availability, and the fact that most consumers are opting for the pre-order option."
Brian Marshall of ISI Group also added his voice to balance the shortfall: "The 5mil+ iPhone 5 reported sales only takes into consideration: 1) what was sold into partners (e.g., retail outlets, carriers, etc.), 2) sold in AAPL retail stores, and 3) direct to customers only if they signed for the device. Importantly, this doesn't take into consideration units in delivery direct to customers (i.e., AAPL must have signature of acceptance by customer before it is counted as a sale) and we estimate units in transit could be in the millions currently."
However, the most scary fact (for stock owners obviously) is Apple's shrinkage as the graphic below illustrates: Apple sold more units per country during the launch of the iPhone 4S than this year, when the iPhone 5 was available in nine countries.
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I don't know about you, but there is a lot of speculation there: we don't know how many units are in transit, but we know just a couple of reliable facts: Apple received 2 million pre-orders and sold 5 million units during the first weekend. New owners love their device, but obviously Apple can't satisfy everybody's need. One of the weirdest complaints -- besides the Maps app -- was related to the iPhone 5's weight: it's freakin' light. The rest is speculation.