Rumor Has It: 20 Million Plus iPhones for Q1 2011


Confirmed last month by Fortune and the Wall Street Journal (s nws), the Verizon (s vz) iPhone (s aapl) is already impacting sales without actually being sold. According to DigiTimes, Apple has increased orders from component suppliers in Taiwan, raising shipments from 19 million to as many as 21 million units for the first quarter of 2011.

Shipments of WCDMA iPhones — the UMTS model sold by carriers like AT&T(s t) — has risen from 13 million units to as many as 15 million. CDMA iPhones, which will be sold by carriers like Verizon, would ship as many as six million units.

While shipments are technically not sales, Apple’s iPhone is a very different story from Windows Phone 7 (s msft), which recently shipped 1.5 million units to carriers in its first six weeks. How many were sold? No one knows. In contrast, the iPhone is currently supply-constrained in China, and continues to sell extremely well worldwide. The iPhone sold 14.1 million units last quarter, and is expected to sell 15 million this quarter, for a total of more than 47 million sold during 2010.

Looking forward to 2011, Verizon’s more than 90 million customers will grab the majority of these CDMA iPhones, should they surface. AT&T, which has about as many customers as Verizon, activated more than 5 million iPhones last quarter. That number fits well with the estimate from DigiTimes of five to six million CDMA phones next quarter.

However, the big numbers will come in the summer, when, presumably, the iPhone 5 will be released for both UMTS and CDMA networks, if Apple has decided to offer both types of radio in its smartphones. There have also been questionable rumors of an LTE iPhone, and, of course, the almost mythic, white iPhone is scheduled for release. If Apple can sell 20 million iPhones on the downside of the yearly release cycle the next two quarters, it’s possible the company could average 30 million per quarter in the second half of the year, or 100 million iPhones in 2011.

No one would have predicted that when the original iPhone was unveiled just five years ago, which makes you wonder what heights Apple has yet to hit.

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