Apple expected to sell 58M iPhones in Q1, driven by growth in China

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) reports its quarterly earnings later today, and while analysts don't expect a blowout quarter, many are predicting Apple to post its second-best period of iPhone sales ever.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg, financial analysts think Apple sold 58.1 million iPhone units in its second fiscal quarter, which ended March 28. That would represent a 33 percent increase from the 43.7 million units Apple sold in the year-ago period. [click to tweet]

Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha is even more bullish. In Comments to the Wall Street Journal, he noted that Apple is retaining 90 percent of iPhone users, and winning customers away from high-end smartphones running Google  (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android platform.  He estimates that Apple sold 60 million iPhones during the quarter, which would be down from the record 74.5 million iPhones Apple sold in its December quarter, when it first introduced its new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. However, the 60 million figure would be a 37 percent year-over-year increase.

Aside from the continued strength of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple also likely got a boost in its most recent quarter from sales in China, thanks in large part to the Chinese New Year in February. Chinese iPhone sales could surpass U.S. iPhone sales for the first time in a single quarter, according some analysts. Apple executives are likely not going to disclose that kind of detail, but the company may have sold 18 million to 20 million iPhones in greater China during the quarter, compared to 14 million to 15 million in the U.S., according to Creative Strategies LLC.

"Before, there was some strength in Asia and that was people buying for themselves, then you have the phenomenon you have in Chinese New Year, which is when people gift," Creative Strategies analyst Ben Bajarin told Bloomberg. "Our big question is what happens in China for the next few quarters? Are they on par with the U.S.? At some point in time, it feels like it is inevitable that every quarter iPhone in China will be bigger than the U.S."

Apple is expected to report net profit of $12.6 billion on revenue of $56 billion, according to the average of analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That would represent a 23.5 percent jump in profit and a 23 percent jump in revenue. The quarterly results will not include the Apple Watch, the company's first wearable, which went on sale only this month. 

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Business Insider article

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