Apple could sell between 2 million and 2.5 million iPhone 4S units in its first weekend of release, according to an Oct. 14 research note by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. That includes the 1 million preorders for the device.
Munster based that number on historical trends for iPhone sales. "We surveyed 550 people at Apple stores regarding iPhone 4S purchasing patterns," he wrote in that note, "and we compare the results with similar surveys conducted at every iPhone launch."
Those Apple stores were located in Minneapolis and New York. "Lines were shorter compared to the iPhone 4 launch," Munster added, "but a longer online pre-order (7 days this year vs. 1 day last year), weather, and more patient buyers leave us confident" that Apple will hit that predicted sales figure.
A note on the bottom of Munster's report acknowledges, in the spirit of full disclosure, that Piper Jaffray "does and seeks to do business with companies covered in its research reports."
At 8:15 a.m. EDT Oct. 14, soon after the iPhone 4S went on sale, a line had already assembled around Apple's Fifth Avenue store in New York City. Significant in length, it nonetheless seemed shorter than the one for the iPad 2 launch in March.
The iPhone 4S resembles the iPhone 4, albeit with significant under-the-hood tweaks to its hardware and software. The smartphone also comes preloaded with iOS 5, a significant upgrade of the company's mobile operating system.
Researchers are already busying themselves with breakdowns of the new device's hardware: According to IHS iSuppli, the iPhone 4S features a camera module previously unseen in any other smartphone.
That five-lens camera module is "a first in any smartphone analyzed by the IHS iSuppli Teardown Analysis service," the research firm wrote in an Oct. 14 note to media and analysts. "Previously, the state-of-the-art has been a four-lens approach. ... Like the iPhone 4, the 4S employs backside illumination (BSI) technology."
Other features could allow the smartphone to stand out in an increasingly crowded field.
"The iPhone 4S employs the same dual-core A5 apps processor used in the iPad 2, likely along with the same SDRAM memory configuration at 4 Gigabits (Gb)," Wayne Lam, senior analyst at IHS, wrote in the research note. "The use of this low density of memory highlights the efficiency of Apple's iOS operating system compared to those of competitive smartphones, which use twice as much SDRAM, at 8GB."
As a result, he added, "this lowers the cost of the memory subsystem, leading to greater design economy relative to alternative phones."