This week Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced that it sold 10 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units in just the first weekend of sales, outpacing every other iPhone launch to date.
Apple traditionally breaks its previous sales records, so it's not all that surprising that the company outpaced last year's launch by one million units. But it's worth taking a look at Apple's first three-day sales numbers over the past few years, and what that could mean for the coming fiscal Q1 sales.
So let's take a quick look at how the latest iPhone sales numbers compare to those of previous models:
Obviously Apple's moving in the right direction, and, considering the company earns about 70% of its revenue from the iPhone, these first three-day sales numbers are very good. According to The New York Times, analysts were expecting anywhere between 6.5 million to the low teens of million units sold over the first three days.
But what we don't see from these figures alone is the fact that Apple launched the 5c and 5s in China last year during launch weekend. This year, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are still awaiting regulatory approval in China and will launch in the near future, meaning that this year's weekend launch number of 10 million iPhone sales isn't exactly comparable to last year's numbers.
When the devices debut in China, it'll be on not just China Telecom and China Unicom (as the 5s and 5c originally launched on), but also on China Mobile -- which is the world's largest carrier, with 791 million subscribers. Given this carrier support, once the China launch happens iPhone sales should surge even higher.
The best is yet to come
If you've been following previous iPhone launches, you'll know that the first weekend sales often reflect how much phone inventory Apple was able to stockpile before the launch, and not necessarily how much demand there is for the device.
Apple CEO Tim Cook explained this in a recent press release, saying, "While our team managed the manufacturing ramp better than ever before, we could have sold many more iPhones with greater supply and we are working hard to fill orders as quickly as possible."
In short: if Apple had more iPhones ready for launch weekend, they probably would have sold more than 10 million units.
'Tis the season
The holiday season is just around the corner, and that traditionally means big sales for Apple and other smartphone makers. This year Apple reportedly told its manufacturers to have 70 million to 80 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units available by December 30. If its suppliers meet that demand, and Apple sells all of its inventory (or close to it), that would top any previous fiscal first quarter iPhone sales by far.
Here's Apple's fiscal Q1 (which starts in October) sales numbers over the past few years, along with manufacturing prediction for Q1 2015:
Keep in mind the initial order for the iPhone 5s and 5c was between 50 million and 60 million units -- and Apple sold more than 50 million of them in Q1. So it's not unreasonable to think Apple could hit 70 million units sold in this year's fiscal Q1, considering that's the low-end of its manufacturing estimates. After all, there's arguably much more demand for the two bigger iPhones than there ever was for the 5s and 5c.
Investors will want to keep an eye on the new iPhones' debut date in China. The devices are awaiting just one more regulatory approval from China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and once Apple gets it you can expect sales to follow shortly thereafter. We'll have to wait a few months to see how well the new iPhones do compared to previous models, but all the initial results point to a record-breaking first quarter.
Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. 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.