Another year, another iPhone launch weekend record for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). The iPhone maker has just announced that it sold a record 10 million units of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus over the weekend, topping the previous record of 9 million iPhones sold during last year's launch weekend.
Investors already knew that Apple had 4 million preorders in the bag. But still, that figure is even more impressive when you consider some key differences with this year's iPhone launch.
That was without China
Last year was the first time that China was included in Apple's list of launch countries for the iPhone. Needless to say, China is quite an important market for Apple, and that inclusion helped boost sales during the first weekend of availability.
However, it's worth noting that the China Mobile deal wasn't inked until December of last year, with the iPhone launching on China Mobile's network this January. That means only China Unicom and China Telecom were carrying the iPhone 5s and 5c at last year's launch. Still, those two carriers had a combined 342 million subscribers at the time, which inevitably helped last year's total.
Apple continues to work to get the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to China officially, securing another regulatory approval last week. The company only needs one more approval before it can proceed with bringing the latest and greatest iPhones to the Middle Kingdom. I say "officially" because a grey market has quickly emerged to fill the void, as ambitious smugglers buy the device in Hong Kong and smuggle them into Mainland China for hefty premiums. Grey market sales prices are upwards of double retail prices.
Hitting 10 million in unit sales without China is quite an accomplishment.
The same old story: supply constraints
As usual, Apple faced supply constraints for its newest iPhones. Last year, it was the 5s that was hard to get. This year, it's the 6 Plus. Retail partners and Apple Stores didn't have much 6 Plus inventory this weekend, if at all. Shipping times for new orders directly from Apple have already slipped to 3 to 4 weeks.
The financial impact of the 6 Plus shortages is unclear though, since it depends on where consumer demand is weighted. iPhone users have been waiting for larger iPhones, but the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 may be sufficiently large for many. Apple acknowledged that it incorrectly forecasted its demand mix last year, and had to shift production capacity to the 5s. If 6 Plus demand proves stronger than expected, we could see a similar situation this time around.
Phablets are expensive
The pricing tiers of the two new models are also markedly different than last year -- in a good way. Last year, Apple departed from its pattern of shifting the previous flagship to the mid-range, instead launching the 5c as the new mid-range model. The 5c and 5s started at $550 and $650, respectively, at launch.
Apple's move to larger displays was always destined to be a move upmarket, since phablets tend to fetch higher prices than regular-sized smartphones. The 6 and 6 Plus start at $650 and $750, respectively, and go as high as $950 for a fully loaded 6 Plus. That's even before you consider the positive implications of Apple's new storage pricing structure, which strongly encourages upsells to the 64 GB model.
This should all bode well for Apple's iPhone average selling price (ASP). As Apple has become more aggressive in emerging markets, selling aging iPhones at increasingly lower price points, ASP has continued to trend lower.
That's not entirely negative, since it's helping Apple grow unit volumes while gaining share in these markets and attracting new users to the platform (who will ideally upgrade to more expensive models later on). Still, higher is always better, and in that sense the strong performance of the 6 and 6 Plus is particularly good news for iPhone ASP.
At a minimum, Apple just had a $6.5 billion weekend, which is more revenue that rival OEMs generate in an entire quarter. That's not a bad way to end the fiscal year, which closes on Saturday.
Welcome, Android switchers
Tim Cook is already expecting the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to trigger "the mother of all upgrades." He's not alone, as Street analysts continue to ratchet price targets higher in the wake of the iPhone launch. Even beyond Apple's existing customer base, this launch marks Apple's most aggressive attempt to convert Android users.
Most Android flagship smartphones this year have seen only modest improvements relative to their predecessors, including Samsung's Galaxy S5 and HTC's One M8, providing little reason to upgrade. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus represent much more significant incremental improvements compared to last year's iPhones, and large displays have long been one reason to choose Android over iOS in the first place. That's no longer true. Additionally, iOS 8's list of features borrowed from Android similarly makes a switch more comforting to potential switchers.
Apple sold 51 million iPhones during the last holiday quarter. Investors should have little doubt that the company will set a fresh record during the holiday quarter -- but by how much?
Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and China Mobile. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.