Can Apple Really Sell 60 Million iPhones in Just 100 Days?

The iPhone 5 launch today is sure to be the most important event for tech investors this year. The Motley Fool is hosting a live chat where our top tech analysts will answer your questions and break down what the announcement means for Apple and investors everywhere. Swing by Fool.com at 12:45 p.m. EDT today for all of your coverage of Apple's next big announcement.

"How many iPhone 5 units can Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) sell in nine days?" muses fellow Fool Evan Niu. The obvious answer is, "A lot."

More specifically, analysts see as many as 10 million new iPhones finding homes before Apple's fourth quarter ends, follow by perhaps 50 million in the holiday quarter. So, the Wall Street target sits as high as 60 million units in the first three months and change.

How does that goal compare to previous iPhone launches? Well, let's look back in time. Here's the jagged iPhone sales chart you should be used to by now:

Sources: Court filing and SEC filings.

This view highlights the ever-sharper spikes in each year's holiday shopping season, as well as the deepening ditch right in front of that crucial period. Consumers are getting wise to Apple's annual update cycle, making it harder and harder to commit to buying a new iPhone when the next model is just around the corner. That effect is in play again in 2012.

But what happens if you borrow a trick from Financial Reporting 101? Let's smooth out those iPhone sales in trailing-12-month increments and see what happens:

Source: Global iPhone unit sales from Apple's quarterly SEC filings.

Seen through these ultra-smooth goggles, Apple's sales don't look so twitchy anymore. In fact, you can extend that red line through the next two quarters on the same silky-smooth trajectory, and you'll land at roughly the 60 million iPhone 5 units our analyst friends came up with.

So we're not looking at some unreachable pie-in-the-sky target here. The Street targets turn out to be fairly realistic as long as Apple can maintain its tremendous growth momentum.

Investors had better read up on Apple before it takes the wraps off the newest model later today. Fool analyst Evan Niu wrote up a comprehensive report all about the iPhone 5 that's now included as a perk in our premium ticker report on Apple. In it, you'll find a detailed breakdown of critical components expected to be featured in the iPhone 5 and how to profit on them. It comes with a full year of updates, all at no extra cost. Grab your copy today!

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies mentioned. Check out Anders' holdings and bio, or follow him on Twitter and Google+. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have also recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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