iPhone pre-orders mean Apple is lined up for another record holiday season

Yesterday Apple announced iPhone 6 and 6 Plus pre-orders topped 4 million within 24 hours. We told you that this beats the prior record, set by the iPhone 5 launch, where Apple sold had advance orders of only half that many phones. Not that 2 million was a small number — it was insanely high for the time. But now they've doubled the prior record with even higher prices.

Even if all the phones sold were iPhone 6 models (the smaller size) at the base price of $649 in the US market, this means $2.6 billion in sales. But as I discussed in this article about about what a larger iPhone might mean to Apple, there is clearly a market for the larger iPhone 6 Plus.

In fact, I was quite surprised last Friday morning (pre-order day) to see how quickly the 6 Plus models seemed to become unavailable for pickup on launch day (this coming Friday). Maybe Apple didn't make as many of the Plus, but I'm betting they did their market research and new it would be a top choice for a lot of buyers. With a large portion of people buying the iPhone 6 plus and tacking on a case, the average price of each sale is likely to top $800. This means Apple probably did well over $3 billion in pre-order sales volume on Friday. That's huge.

UBS, one of the brokerage houses that follows Apple, predicts that Apple will sell over 100 million iPhones in the second half of this year. Checking this against the spreadsheet that I maintain, it looks like last year they sold about 85 million iPhones in the same period. So the iPhone 6 launch could come with a very meaningful 18% (or more) shipment increase along with a very healthy average selling price increase.

While this sounds impressive, I don't think an 18% bump in sales justifies the comments Tim Cook made to the WSJ about this new lineup triggering "the mother of all upgrade cycles". The optimist in me thinks Apple's growth relative to last year might be even better than USB is predicting.

Cook also suggested, in that same WSJ interview, that Apple would steal some customers away from Android. I think that may prove to be one of the major factors. In fact, I'm one of those customers. I've been on Android for almost a year. I wanted to test out Google's platform because I'd been a long time BlackBerry user. Despite being disappointed with the typing experience, email handling, and an overall slow multitasking (my opinion) of the current best-in-class Samsung Galaxy S4 compared to BlackBerry, I fell in love with the immense choice of apps. But Apple gives me a much better (again, my opinion) operating system versus Android with no compromiss on app selection, which would be required if I went back to BlackBerry. So they've won me over despite the prices. I've already pulled out my wallet.

Beyond just the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus launches, I'm anxious to see what happens when the Apple Watch and Apple Pay roll out globally. Those who love to hate Apple are quick to point out that NFC is nothing new (true) and a smart watch is nothing new (also true). But these people often fail to understand how important it is that Apple controls the entire system to make sure it operates smoothly and, in the case of Apple Pay, does not conflict with the business models of partner financial institutions. I'd like to see how quickly Apple can allow banks or credit card companies too offer new financial products to users directly over the iPhone. This is something Benedict Evans talked about in some detail in this podcast. On the Apple Watch front, I'm very curious what application developers will come up with that could turn an interesting product into a must-have product for people in various niche markets (outside of the obvious health/fitness).

Considering the new pre-order records, impressive line up of new products and new services that Apple is about to unleash on the world, I'm slightly surprised that the stock price is still stuck around $100. Analysts think the company will earn $7.15 per share next year. Three months ago analysts were estimating only $6.88, so Wall Street has become more optimistic on the company, not less. The stock trades at 14 times next year's earnings estimate. That's incredibly cheap for the world leader in high end smartphones.