iPhone sales to hit one billion
iPhone sales to hit one billion mark Getty Images

Apple's iPhone sales are poised to hit the one billion mark, considered a rare achievement by any tech firm, according to analysts. The sales in the third quarter are expected to reach 40 million, with overall sales of 987 million units by the end of June.

Analysts expect Apple to sell another 40 million iPhones in the present quarter, with the billionth iPhone possibly being sold as early as this week. Apple generates more than two thirds of its revenue from iPhones.

Benedict Evans, partner at venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, told the Financial Times: "A billion is the new million." Apple sold 397 million iPods in 2014 when the company stopped reporting sales, whereas the iPhone is nearing 1.1 billion units.

Earlier in 2016, the company revealed that one billion of its devices were in active use including iPads, Macs, TVs and smartwatches, as the company turned its focus to earn revenue from services such as the App Store and Apple Music.

The latest sales figures would be the first since the launch of the iPhone SE or the special edition. The SE model has seen stronger than expected sales. It is based on the iPhone 5s that Apple recently discontinued, with better specs and performance boost over the 5s. Following the launch, Apple received 3.4 million iPhone SE pre-orders in China, said to be a record pre-order in the country.

According to analysts, iPhone sales could be about 15 to 18% lower than what the company achieved in the same quarter last year. Morgan Stanley analysts expect a decline in iPhone sales to "mark the trough", after Apple posted its first drop in April. Apple's growth might be only in single digits in the coming quarters, even with the launch of its upcoming models — the iPhone 7 and the 7 Plus, which might lack attractive selling points.

"Investors will increasingly look forward to the 2017 iPhone cycle. We see several potentially revolutionary features, especially in display and battery life, that Apple could launch in just over a year from now," wrote Morgan Stanley in a note to its clients.

"Other than solid services growth and maybe some improvement in China, there probably won't be many positives in the quarter," said analysts at UBS.