The next generation iPhone 5, which Apple Inc plans to release this week, could boost not only the tech giant’s bottom line, but also the overall US economy.
Sales of the new iPhone could add between a quarter and a half percentage point to fourth-quarter growth in the US, JPMorgan chief economist Michael Feroli said in a note to clients on Monday.
Such an impact would be significant.
“Calculated using the so-called retail control method, sales of [the] iPhone 5 could boost annualized GDP growth by US$3.2 billion, or US$12.8 billion at an annual rate,” Feroli wrote.
That 0.33 percentage-point boost “would limit the downside risk to our Q4 GDP growth protection, which remains 2.0 percent,” he wrote.
JPMorgan analysts expect Apple to sell about 8 million iPhone 5s in the fourth quarter. They expect the sales price to be about US$600.
With about US$200 in discounted import component costs, the government can factor in US$400 per phone into its measure of GDP for the fourth quarter.
Feroli said that the estimate of between a quarter to a half point of annualized GDP “seems fairly large, and for that reason should be treated skeptically.”
However, he added: “We think the recent evidence is consistent with this projection.”
Feroli said that when the last iPhone was launched in October last year, sales significantly outperformed expectations.
“Given the iPhone 5 launch is expected to be much larger, we think the estimate mentioned ... is reasonable,” Feroli wrote.
According to a recent Reuters poll of Wall Street dealers and economists, the US economy is forecast to expand by 2.0 percent next year — down slightly from estimates this summer.
Apple is hosting an event in San Francisco today. The topic wasn’t disclosed, but the e-mail invitation contains a shadow in the shape of a “5” — a sign that the iPhone 5 is coming. Sales usually begin a week or two after such an announcement.
The new phone, to be introduced by CEO Tim Cook, will probably have a new hardware design, including a bigger screen and thinner body, as well as new mapping software and compatibility with speedier next-generation data networks. Analysts predict the iPhone may be among the biggest consumer-electronics releases in history. Still, Apple’s reliance on the device leaves Cook little margin for error.
“The iPhone is the make-or-break product for Apple,” said Sarah Rotman Epps, a mobile-phone industry analyst at Forrester Research. “Apple has the undeniable lead, but to stay on top they need to keep innovating.”
Apple could sell as many as 10 million iPhones by the end of this month alone, according to Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos. By contrast, it took Samsung Electronics Co about 50 days to sell 10 million of its flagship Galaxy S III smartphone.
“Until they do something really unimpressive, which I don’t see happening this time around, Apple has a serious hit on its hands,” said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst at International Data Corp.