Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone 5 is well on its way to becoming the fastest-selling smartphone of all time. Apple announced earlier this week that it sold more than 2 million new iPhones during the device’s first 24 hours of pre-sales availability, over twice the pre-sales volume the company saw when its iPhone 4S launched last year. Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets predicted on Friday that Apple will sell as many as 6.5 million iPhone 5 handsets this weekend alone. Despite Apple’s history of outdoing itself each year, some industry watchers believe Apple has peaked and next year’s iPhone launch will mark the start of a decline.
In a CNNMoney piece titled, “The iPhone 5 may be Apple’s last blowout U.S. bestseller,” David Goldman writes that Apple’s new iPhone 5 could hold the U.S. smartphone sales record for quite some time — or even forever.
Macquarie Securities analyst Kevin Smithen projects that by the end of 2012, 140 million Americans will own smartphones, representing 57% of all U.S. mobile subscribers. That figure is on pace to reach 70% next year, Smithen believes, but that is the percentage at which telecoms services have historically begun to see growth slow substantially.
“The smartphone market, and particularly the iPhone market, will slow next year after very strong shipments of the next iPhone through year-end,” Smithen told CNNMoney.
As smartphones penetration tops out, handset upgrade rates will begin to decline and the explosive sales Apple sees with each new iPhone launch could slow as a result.
Macquarie expects 20 million current iPhone owners to upgrade to the iPhone 5 in 2012, twice the estimated number of upgrades Apple saw in 2011. The firm believes that huge growth will hit a wall, however, and will flatten out after this year.