FORTUNE -- Neither side scored a clear victory this time around. The professional analysts as a group were far too cautious. And our expanded cadre of independents showed signs of irrational exuberance.
But the list at right, which ranks 57 Apple (AAPL) analysts by the accuracy of their fiscal Q2 2012 revenue and earnings estimates, shows that the independents have once again bested the pros -- their 14th win in 15 quarters.
The top eight spots were taken by indies, including four of the six "best analysts" whose estimates we used as a benchmark in the weeks leading up to Tuesday's earnings report.
The top spot goes, once again, to Daniel ("Deagol") Tello, a Venezuelan blogger who has been posting earnings estimates since 2005. You can read his occasional analyses here.
Special mention goes to Alexis Cabot, an American expat living in Rome, who came in first in the ranking that includes all six categories (revenue, EPS, unit sales and gross margin). And to Chuck Jones, a former buy-side tech analyst who has been doing independent analysis on Apple for six months and came in third in his first outing.
Kudos also to Pacific Crest's Andy Hargreaves, BCG's Colin Gillis, Merrill Lynch's Scott Craig and J.P Morgan's Mark Moskowitz who all managed to make it into the top 15 despite institutional pressures not to stray too far from the Street's consensus.
Last place went to Gabriel Dubois, an independent from the newly formed Braeburn Group who like many of his peers this quarter let his enthusiasm get the better of him, overestimating iPhone sales by nearly 9 million units and revenue by nearly $8 billion.
Otherwise the bottom of the list was populated by pros who seem to have missed those photographs of Chinese iPhone buyers mobbing the Beijing Apple Store. How else could Deutsche Bank's Chris Whitmore, ISI's Brian Marshall and Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty have submitted iPhone sales estimates of 26, 26 and 30 million units, respectively?
For the record, here's how our six "best analysts" -- the top performers over the past five quarters -- did as a group:
Clearly the key to correctly predicting Apple's bottom line was getting the iPhone number right.
Below the fold: Our annotated master spreadsheet, with the best estimates highlighted in bright green, the second and third best in light green, the worst in red and the second and third worst in pink.
Averaging the Q1 2012 estimates of the six analysts with the best track records
Whisper numbers, according to Wikipedia, emerge from widening cracks in the spreadsheets maintained by Wall Street analysts. Quoting an article by Daniel Svensson, the entry explains:
"When the estimate is first calculated by sell-side analysts, the number is submitted to companies such as First Call to be averaged with other analysts' estimates for the consensus earnings estimate. As MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 23, 2012 6:19 AM ET
The carrier will add an estimated 1.2 million new accounts, more than double AT&T's
"Santa's Sleigh Needs More Room for iPhones." That was the headline on a note to clients Thursday by Mark Moskowitz, who follows Apple (AAPL) for J.P. Morgan. Moskowitz was upping his iPhone sales estimate for the current quarter from 25.3 million to (a still relatively conservative) 28 million.
"Christmas Is Coming Early for Verizon" could have been the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 4, 2011 6:45 AM ET
A big Q3 is a given. Just look at what the stock has done lately. But the devil is in the details
The Street has fallen back in love with Apple (AAPL). "Get ready for the return of the wow factor," J.P. Morgan's Mark Moskowitz told clients last week just before the stock put the finishing touches on a 28-day, $58.48 (18.5%) run that took it to $373.80 Monday afternoon, an MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 19, 2011 7:48 AM ET
Expects average sales of Apple's "quasi-tablet for productivity users" to hit 700,000/quarter
In early April, J.P. Morgan's Mark Moskowitz issued a glowing report on Apple's thinnest notebook computer in which he predicted that Apple would sell $2.2 billion worth of MacBook Airs in the next 12-18 months.
On Thursday he revised his estimates -- upward. Not only did the new models released last October sell like crazy in the Christmas quarter, but MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jun 16, 2011 10:07 AM ET
As analysts rejigger their numbers ahead of Q2 earnings, someone's not counting straight
We got two last-minute reports from analysts Friday, just a few trading days before Apple (AAPL) is schedule to report its earnings for its second fiscal quarter of 2011.
One of the analysts, J.P. Morgan's Mark Moskowitz, lowered his iPad unit sales number for the quarter to 5.4 million from 6.0 million, citing stock outs, stall outs and persistent MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 15, 2011 11:56 AM ET
After the U.S (with Verizon) and South Korea, Apple is likely to target China, India and Japan
The iPhone built around the CDMA protocol that Apple (AAPL) launched in February went first to Verizon (VZ).
That made sense, since Verizon Wireless, with 94 million customers, represents the world largest market for CDMA mobile phones.
But as J.P. Morgan's Mark Moskowitz points out in a note to clients issued Tuesday, Verizon's is not the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 13, 2011 9:48 AM ET
Apple's break-out notebook, says an analyst, may represent a new category: the quasi-tablet
With so much attention focused on the iPad, J.P. Morgan's Mark Moskowitz chose Monday to change the subject.
He issued a note to clients that focused instead on the fastest growing member of Apple's Mac line: The MacBook Air.
According to Moskowitz, revenue from Air sales tripled and units quadrupled year over year after Apple (AAPL) cut the price, added MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 4, 2011 3:39 PM ET
A preview of what analysts expect from the company's Q3 2010 earnings report
As it has for the past three quarters, the iPhone will almost certainly represent the single biggest portion of Apple's considerable revenue stream when the company reports its fiscal third quarter earnings two weeks from Tuesday.
That's harder than usual to say. We know that Apple (AAPL) sold at least 1.7 million iPhone 4s in the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 4, 2010 7:27 PM ET
Amidst a broad market sell-off, the firm sets a new record-high share-price target
"Apple stands to be the high-growth, technology leader having no rival for some time," writes J.P. Morgan's Mark Moskowitz in a note to clients Thursday.
And with that he raised his firm's target price for Apple (AAPL) more than 24%, from $316 to $390 -- a new Wall Street record.
And that doesn't even include the bump Apple would get MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 1, 2010 11:07 AM ET
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