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Why Analysts Are Trimming Apple’s iPhone Estimates

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Nov. 20 2020, Updated 1:13 p.m. ET

The iPhone 8 delays

Apple (AAPL) has traditionally chosen September for the launch of its new iPhones. But that trend may change this year—at least for the company’s flagship handset that has been unofficially called the iPhone 8.

The iPhone 8 is expected to come with a significant design upgrade as Apple marks its ten years in the smartphone business. For ten years, Apple has been successful selling smartphones largely at the expense of BlackBerry (BBRY) and Nokia (NOK), which have in recent years become pale shadows of their former selves in the phone business.

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Among the design shifts expected in the iPhone 8 are wireless charging support and a fingerprint scanner built into the display. But after conversations with Apple suppliers in Asia, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts recently said in a note cited by CNBC that production of the iPhone 8 has run into technological challenges. These hurdles relate to the fingerprint scanner and 3D sensors for facial recognition. As such, these analysts said the iPhone 8 shipment could be delayed by three to four weeks.

Apple to sell fewer iPhones in 2017

As a result of technological issues with the iPhone 8, analysts see Apple shipping fewer iPhones overall this year. Their estimate is that Apple would ship 208.1 million iPhones in fiscal 2017, down from the 219.1 million iPhones originally estimated.

Analysts further cut their iPhone shipment estimates for the September and December quarters by 11.0 million and 6.0 million, respectively. As the chart above shows, Apple shipped 211.9 million iPhones in fiscal 2016. In the March quarter, Apple shipped 50.8 million iPhones—fewer than the 52.0 million expected as it continues to battle competition from Samsung (SSNLF), Microsoft (MSFT), and Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google.

iPhone 8 delays predictions

Bank of America Merrill Lynch isn’t alone in sounding the alarm over iPhone 8 delays. Wall Street firms such as Cowen, KGI, Drexel Hamilton, and RBC Capital Markets have also, in recent months, predicted that the iPhone 8 could be delayed for up to a few months.

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