As the September launch of Apple’s next-generation iPhone draws closer, the hyperbole that typically precedes such events is growing ever louder. We’ve already heard predictions that this fall will be an iPhone blowout. Now comes word from FBR Capital analyst Craig Berger that the iPhone 5, or whatever Apple chooses to call it, will be the company’s “most impactful” device so far.
Berger figures that Apple could sell as many as 250 million units of the new iPhone over the product’s life cycle, generating a some heady profits. “We expect the iPhone 5 … has the potential to generate the most promising device upgrade cycle in Apple’s history,” Berger declares, going on to say, “We calculate that the device represents an opportunity to generate earnings of $50 per share throughout its life cycle. We estimate that Apple should sell 250 million iPhone 5 units at an average ASP of $575, generating nearly $144 billion in revenue, $77 billion in gross profit, and $47 billion in net income.”
Those are some very big numbers. Clearly, Berger doesn’t seem much worried that upgrade eligibility and carrier subsidy issues will impact the next-generation iPhone’s earnings potential.
The reasons? There are a few. Berger believes that smartphone upgrades are often driven more by the debut of a new marquee device than by eligibility status. He feels that demand for the new iPhone will be so strong that unit sales may exceed those of the iPhone 4S by 25 percent in the device’s first four quarters at market.
But most of all, he’s counting on the iPhone debuting on China Mobile some time in early 2013. China’s largest wireless carrier, China Mobile, currently boasts about 683 million subscribers — that’s more than twice those of Verizon, AT&T and Sprint combined. And Apple has had its eye on it as a carrier partner for some time. Now, with the iPhone already available on China Unicom and China Telecom, the time would seem to be ripe to sign up China Mobile, which represents a massive addressable market of new iPhone users, and one that Apple can’t ignore much longer.