Apple iPhones Big Numbers, Maybe

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Several reports yesterday indicated that Apple (AAPL) would sell 800,000 iPhone in the current quarter. Reuters reported that a UBS analyst believed that AAPL would top its own target of 730,000 handsets. Barron’s had an article indicating that the same analyst said that AAPL iPhone demand was "solid" and that the company would bring a new video iPhone to market.

In all of the excitement, Apple’s shares were up over 5% at one point to over $127, still well below their recent high of $148.92.

What’s wrong with this picture? According to The New York Times, AAPL quietly started selling used iPhones on its website this week. That could be taken two ways. Apple want to reach its sales goals, so it will take any handset it gets back, fix it, and sell it at a discount.

But, a more logical conclusion is that the iPhone is not quite as successful as the world might believe. The used iPhones sell for $100 less than the new ones. That probably means that the margin is lower. And, it begs the question of why people are sending iPhones back at all. The iPhone is supposed to be very hard to find and worth it weight in gold.

AAPL selling used iPhones just a couple of months after its launch is probably not a good sign, no matter what analysts say about how many units they think the company can move.

Douglas A. McIntyre