The China market has become an increasingly important one for Apple. It generated about 15% of the Cupertino company’s fiscal 2012 sales. Now the nation’s role should grow even larger, with news of the strong iPhone 5 debut.
After Apple announced on Sunday that it sold more than 2 million iPhone 5 units in China over the device’s launch weekend, Wall Street analysts reacted positively to the news. Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets noted it’s the first time ever that Apple has issued a post-launch press release for an iPhone in China.
The strong showing belies the concerns of some investors that the device was off to a slow start in China. Some had mistakenly assumed the device was off to a weak start because of reports of small crowds at Apple stores on opening day, failing to take into account Apple’s online reservations system, put in place to specifically cut down on crowds.
Analysts see an enormous growth opportunity for the iPhone 5.
Brian Marshall with ISI Group noted Apple sold 5 million iPhone 5 units when it debuted in 9 countries, including the U.S., in September. Marshall estimates that about 2 million iPhone 5 units were sold by U.S. carriers in the first 10 days of launch.
“In a shorter timespan of just 3 days, AAPL sold over (2 million) units at China Unicom and China Telecom, or (about 1.5 percent) penetration of a (130 million) 3G subscriber base,” Marshall said. “In our view, this suggests potential for subscriber penetration in China could be similar to that of developed countries, despite per capita GDP that is less than 1/5 of the U.S.”
Marshall says the success so far further highlights the potential of a deal with China Mobile, the largest carrier in the world with around 700 million subscribers.
Shaw Wu with Sterne Agee also noted the strong Chinese sales, and said it “should help quell investor concerns.”
“We remain comfortable with our above consensus iPhone forecast looking for 47.5 million units for the December quarter,” Wu said. “We continue to believe iPhone 5 is a significant update positioned to drive a powerful product cycle.”