Predicted LTE iPhone Fall Release Date Could Hurt Apple’s Second Quarter

Apple is expected to deliver fewer iPhones in the current quarter because of its anticipated next-generation device, an analyst wrote in a research note.

Based on supply checks, Shaw Wu of Sterne Agee said Apple could ship 26-28 million iPhones, below a consensus of 30-31 million. Apple sold 35.1 million iPhones in its most recent quarter ending March 31.

"From our understanding, the reason for the reduction is not demand related but rather due to the upcoming 6th generation iPhone refresh likely in the September-October timeframe," Wu wrote.

Apple is expected to unveil an iPhone 5 later this year with 4G LTE capabilities.

Such a reduction in shipments would not be unprecedented. Apple shipped significantly fewer iPhones than anticipated ahead of its October 2011 iPhone 4S launch, he said. Apple sold 17.07 million iPhones in the quarter ending Sept. 24, 2011, far below Wall Street estimates of 20 million units, the analyst said.

The quarterly outlook for Apple’s iPad is much different with an expectation of greater shipments than predicted.

"As we have mentioned before … what held back shipments were supply constraints on its new HD retina display," Wu wrote. "We hear this has been greatly improved with an additional supplier. We believe this will enable AAPL to be better equipped to meet strong demand and deliver upside relative to consensus expectations."

For the current quarter, Sterne Agee lowered its forecasts for iPhone shipments to 27 million units (from 28 million) while raising its estimates for iPad shipments to 15 million units from 14 million. In the last quarter, Apple sold 11.8 million iPads. Released in March, the new iPad is expected to fuel strong demand.

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