Updated from 8:41 A.M. to include data about iPhone 5c sales in the sixth paragraph.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." -- Mark Twain
While Twain's famous quote can be applied to almost anything, applying it to Apple (AAPL - Get Report)and most notably the iPhone, is particularly appropriate on a day when the iPhone maker's numbers are better than some observers might assume.
Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty, who is perhaps the most-respected Apple analyst on Wall Street and who is always the first to ask a question on the company's quarterly earnings calls, noted that iPhone sales for the September quarter may be as high as 34.5 million units, well above the average analyst projection, and putting to bed any concerns investors might have about slowing growth at the best-known company in Cupertino, Calif.
"Our analysis indicates iPhone demand of 34.5M units in C3Q13," Huberty wrote in a note. "This is better than our forecast of 31M and consensus expectations in the low 30Ms. It is also 2.5M higher than our smartphone tracker at the end of August, representing early demand for the new iPhone 5s and 5c."Investors were concerned Monday that Apple didn't issue a press release announcing pre-order figures for the the iPhone 5c, a notion that Huberty rightly called "overblown." The concern over the lack of a press release sent shares tumbling on Sept. 16 as Apple dropped 3.2%. Huberty noted that pre-orders this year aren't comparable to years past given that the iPhone 5s is still not available for pre-order in the U.S.; it goes on sale online on Friday at 12:01 a.m. Both phones are available in stores (while supplies last, of course) at 8:00 a.m. local time on Friday. Both phones will be available in the U.S., Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore and the U.K.
A look on Apple's website indicates the iPhone 5c is already sold out on its initial launch. Available to ship dates moved from Sept. 20, when the phone will go on sale, to now being available to ship in 3 to 5 business days. Huberty's AlphaWise Smartphone Tracker shows a 15% quarter-over-quarter increase in iPhone shipments, about the same as last year, when the tracker saw 16% growth ahead of the iPhone 5 launch. That would indicate 25% year-over-year growth, ahead of what Huberty had previously been modeling. She rates Apple shares "overweight." For the full quarter, analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect Apple to earn $7.66 a share on $36.06 billion in revenue. <story_page_break> The lack of a press release about the 5c pre-orders is less concerning now than it will be if Apple doesn't issue a pre-release with initial weekend sales figures this weekend. By then, both the 5c and 5s will be available, marking the first time Apple has released two phones simultaneously. The initial reviews for both phones are out, with glowing recommendations for the 5s, in particular, and its fingerprint scanning, known as TouchID. Perhaps the most respected gadget reviewer of our day, The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg, said the "fingerprint recognition's a game changer." Likewise, other respected reviewers, including The New York Times David Pogue, Daring Fireball's John Gruber, as well as a host of others were incredibly positive. Demand for the gold iPhone 5s in China and Hong Kong is exceptional, as the reservation system shows all models, especially the gold iPhone 5s, are already sold out. According to sources close to the situation, this is more to do with the process about selling a product in China, and isn't specific to Apple. While some on Wall Street are concerned that Apple's chief revenue driver, the iPhone, is seeing slowing growth, and is no longer the innovative product it once was, consumers and tracking data are telling a very different story. Now let's see what Apple has to say. --Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York >Contact by Email. Follow @Chris_Ciaccia