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Can Apple Sell 200 Million iPhones This Year?

Paul Ausick

In its first quarter of fiscal 2014, Apple Inc. (AAPL) reported selling 51.03 million iPhones. The company's second quarter, which ended in March, saw total sales fall to 43.72 million. So for the first half of its fiscal year, Apple has sold 94.75 million phones. To make it to 200 million, Apple needs to pick up its game.

Last year the company sold about 150.26 million iPhones, meaning that sales have to grow by a third for Apple to hit the 200 million target. What is different this year? First, there's the deal with China Mobile Ltd. (CHL) that gives Apple access to the Chinese giant’s 750 million subscribers. The iPhone is still very expensive for most Chinese consumers, but just counting the ones who would not have to spend a month's salary or more for the phone is still a big number.

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According to a June 2013 report from McKinsey, 54% of 256 million urban households in China were counted as "mass middle class" in 2012 and another 14% were included in what the research firm called the "upper middle class." In 10 years, the mass middle class will shrink to 22% of urban households and the upper middle class will swell to 54%. The total of middle class households will rise to 357 million. The percentage of affluent Chinese urban households will grow from 3% to 9% in 10 years.

The income level of the mass middle class is about $9,700 to $17,100 a year, while the upper middle class income range is $17,100 to nearly $37,000 at today's exchange rates. Incomes above that level are counted as affluent.

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The consensus estimate for iPhone sales in the third quarter is 38 million, and the highest estimate we have seen for iPhone sales in Apple's 2014 fiscal year is 178 million. Sales in China are not likely to make up the difference.

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