Apple iPhone 4S Shipments Could Herald Strong 2012: Analyst

Apple's shipment numbers for the iPhone 4S and iPad could herald a strong 2012, according to a new analyst report.

Apple likely posted strong iPhone 4S and iPad sales in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to a new analyst report. Combined with other projections, that suggests Apple is entering 2012 on a high note.

"We believe CQ4 iPhone builds settled in at [37 million], which means shipments of [35 million] are possible," Peter Misek, an analyst with Jefferies & Co., wrote in a co-authored research note Jan. 17. "CQ4 iPad builds finished at [12 million] with sell-through over [13.5 million]." In turn, that means "we see a strong [calendar year 2012] product cycle (iPhone 5, iPad 3, iTV)."

In a Jan. 18 blog posting, research firm Nielsen also suggested that the iPhone 4S had managed to increase Apple's market share in its battle with Google Android. "Among recent acquirers, meaning those who said they got a new device within the past three months, 44.5 percent of those surveyed in December said they chose an iPhone," read that posting, "compared with 25.1 percent in October." Some 57 percent of iPhone owners surveyed in December chose the iPhone 4S.

"Android continues to hold the lead among all smartphone users," that posting added, "with 46.3 percent of all smartphone owners surveyed in Q42011 reporting they have an Android-based mobile phone." Even so, the iPhone 4S clearly had an impact on the overall market.

In its quest to maintain dominance of the tablet segment, and prevent Android from overrunning its market share in smartphones, Apple will almost certainly refresh some key products in 2012. Current rumors indicate that the iPad 3 will appear sometime early this year, following the release cadence of previous Apple tablet releases, with the iPhone 5 following sometime later.

Both devices could offer radical new features, with the rumor mill suggesting a high-definition "Retina Display" for the iPad 3 and perhaps a wildly different design for the iPhone 5. In the coming year, Apple will not only face down Android products from the likes of Samsung, but also a host of new Windows Phones and Windows 8 tablets from Microsoft and its various hardware partners.

If analysts' estimates of Apple's shipment and sales numbers are validated by the company's Jan. 24 earnings call, then it suggests Cupertino will have positive momentum heading into 2012, and going toe-to-toe with those rivals.

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