On January 27 Apple will release its fiscal Q1 and full-year results. We’ll find out the answer to a question and game that pundits and financial analysts play each quarter: how many devices did the company sell?
A year ago Apple announced sales of 47.8 million iPhones and 22.9 million iPads. It recorded $54.5 billion in gross revenue.
Over the past several weeks there has been a flood of third party data, suggesting that iPhones sold well. The outlook for the iPad is a bit murkier.
As a matter of routine, financial analysts issue revenue and sales predictions for companies they cover. But with Apple there’s a stranger, more competitive culture. The company inspires more “intense” coverage. Increasingly that’s true of Google too.
Often analysts will boost their Apple-related sales projections to gain attention and stand out in a crowded analyst field. In turn that sometimes causes other analysts to increase their estimates. (Over time you lose credibility if you’re too far off however.) That “coverage culture” and analyst competition can create what I would call artificial problems for Apple.
It almost goes without saying that the company will announce quarterly revenues in excess of last year’s $54 billion. The range of anticipated iPhone sales is 50 million to more than 59 million units according to Fortune. The average of all of these is 55.3 million. That’s probably a pretty good number.
Despite what will likely be massive quarterly revenues and impressive device sales, what matters to Wall Street (at least in the immediate term) is whether Apple exceeds these analyst device and revenue estimates — even if it’s only by a little.
If Apple “beats,” its stock will rise. If it does not investors will sell. Admittedly I don’t travel in the financial analyst world. But I’ve often observed this pattern and concluded that there’s something really bizarre and even ultimately worrying about it.