CUPERTINO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Apple ( AAPL) is suffering the cruel math of the high-fliers club. Sure, Apple's iPhone problems have put a dark cloud over the stock and have cast a shadow over the company's earnings reports this afternoon (which TheStreet will be covering via live blog). But how big a deal is it? On Wall Street, where woes are expressed in dollars, the iPhone concerns have effectively eliminated $33.3 billion in Apple's market value.
The problem, beyond the iPhone 4 antenna defect that Apple is expected to fix by September, is that iPhone sales may not reach the 9 million unit target central to the bullish scenario. In other words, there's a potential performance hiccup in store for one of tech's most beloved stocks. Over the past month, as the iPhone 4's antenna problems have risen to a level of national curiosity, underlying that supply constraints have threatened to cap sales volumes in the 8 million range.
No big deal right? Well, depends on how you measure big. Apple shares have fallen 12% from all-time peak level last month of $279. That's a $33.3 billion reduction to Apple's tech-leading market cap. Going into the call after the bell Tuesday, analysts are looking for Apple to report earnings of $3.11 a share on sales of $14.7 billion, according to a Yahoo! Finance tally. The good news is that Apple might say that it sees an end to the iPhone component shortages. But a lingering concern is that Apple customers could catch wind of a fixed phone coming in September (read December quarter), and hold off on immediate purchases. Unfortunately, Apple's great growth showcase is quickly becoming a bit too much like a fishbowl. --Written by Scott Moritz in New York.