Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) big day is now over for 2018. And the verdicts are rolling in. On September 12, Apple announced a host of new products and updates including: the iPhone Xs, Xs Max, Xr, and Apple Watch Series 4. In essence:
- New Apple Watch gets major upgrades in display (30% bigger), more accurate motion tracking, and heart rate monitoring; an overall bigger design leap than last year (despite little improvement in battery life).
- New iPhones come with performance improvements in processors, displays, cameras, and machine learning capabilities.
- The massive 6.5″ iPhone Xs Max pushes iPhone pricing to a new high of $1,499.
- Apple adds long-awaited dual SIM support to iPhone
Top Oppenheimer analyst Andrew Uerkwitz (Profile & Recommendations) has just released a report reviewing the event- and maintains his Hold rating. This is without a price target.
On the plus side, the press event showcased Apple’s strength in pricing power and hardware-software integration. “We believe Apple may get another round of ASP [average selling price] increase and high-end share gain (especially in China) due to raised upper range of iPhone price and dual SIM support” cheers Uerkwitz. Indeed, dual SIM support is a feature long wanted by Chinese customers, and already widely available among Chinese Android phones.
But ultimately these improvements aren’t enough to get Uerkwitz hyped up. He admits that he finds it ‘harder to get excited over new iPhone features and their growth prospects than before.’
And for this analyst, the fact remains that “Apple no longer has the market or country tailwinds to drive significant iPhone growth.” These latest releases won’t erase this fundamental problem. He continues “We believe there is a lengthening of the replacement cycle and diminishing utility of high-end phones across markets, to which Apple is not immune.”
Bottom line: “As long as iPhone sales do not grow, we believe the stock will struggle to work.”
However: longer-term investors may well fare better. Even with a troubling iPhone outlook, Uerkwitz still sees ‘tremendous value’ in the Apple ecosystem and user base monetization. Plus its substantial capital return program should provide downside protection.
All told, Apple has a cautiously optimistic Moderate Buy rating from the Street. As this TipRanks screenshot shows, 20 analysts have published buy ratings on the stock in the last three months. This is versus 12 hold ratings and even 1 sell rating. Meanwhile the average analyst price target of $225 indicates only 1.6% upside potential from the current share price.
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