Apple (AAPL) iPhone 5 Weekend Sales Top 5 Million

Apple Inc. (AAPL) said Monday that it sold more than 5 million iPhone 5 units, just three days after its launch on September 21. The strong sales tally is a record for any iPhone, but it exceeds last year’s iPhone 4S launch, which was seen as a smaller technological step forward compared to the iPhone 5, only by a small margin.  Apple sold four million 4S models after introducing it in October 2011.

Colin Gillis, a technology analyst at BTIG in New York, said: [via theguardian] “On any metric, this is a success. It’s one million more units than last time. But this is Apple, and given the expectations on this company, they have to not just set records – they have to smash them.”

Apple’s new iPhone sales seem to also fall short of many analysts’ expectations, a number of whom forecast that almost twice as many would be sold.

Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster was looking at 8 million smartphones sold in the first weekend, predicting 6 million the worst-case scenario for the company.

“The number is lower than what people had expected,” Brian White, an analyst at Topeka Capital Markets, said in a Bloomberg interview. White had estimated debut iPhone 5 weekend sales of 6 million to 6.5 million units, excluding Internet purchases that haven’t been shipped. “This seems to be driven more by availability than demand,” White said.

“Demand for iPhone 5 has been incredible and we are working hard to get an iPhone 5 into the hands of every customer who wants one as quickly as possible,” said in a statement Tim Cook, Apple’s Chief Executive Officer. “While we have sold out of our initial supply, stores continue to receive iPhone 5 shipments regularly and customers can continue to order online and receive an estimated delivery date. We appreciate everyone’s patience and are working hard to build enough iPhone 5s for everyone.”

Apple also said that while the majority of iPhone 5 pre-orders have been shipped to customers, many were scheduled to go out in October as demand for the new handset continued to exceed the initial supply. In other words what Apple is implying is that it may not be able to produce the iPhone 5 fast enough to meet demand around the world.

“They may not be able to build them fast enough to hit their targets,” Colin Gillis, a research analyst with BGC was quoted as saying to Reuters news agency. “The reality is if they can’t build (fast enough), any hiccup is going to be a negative.”

The iPhone, which is Apple’s highest-margin product and accounts for about two-thirds of its profits, will go on sale in 22 more countries on Friday, September 29. That will grow to more than 100 by the end of the year.

Apple shares fell 1.3 percent to $690.79 (52 wk range: $354.24 – $705.07) at the close in New York amid concern that supply constraints and delayed shipments may impede the company from harnessing the iPhone 5 to outpace its key supplier as well as rival, Samsung Electronics, from maintaining the lead in smartphone sales.

In Q2’12, Samsung sold 50.5 million smartphones, twice as many as Apple.

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