All things considered, things are looking rosy for Apple. Sure, Apple’s HomePod and AirPods won’t be available until 2018, but iPhone sales — where Apple derives the bulk of its revenue — are as strong as ever. Specifically, the company’s flagship iPhone X debuted to immense demand and strong reviews across the board this fall. And while there was some initial concern as to how consumers would take to an iPhone without a home button, early sales have been incredibly promising. Further, the efficacy of Face ID has helped most people forget about Touch ID altogether.
Even more encouraging is that Apple managed to get a handle on supply much quicker than many analysts initially anticipated. Not too long ago, the prevailing consensus was that it would take Apple a few good months before reaching a supply-demand balance. In reality, we’re already there. In fact, iPhone X shipping times are down to 1-2 days, positioning Apple for yet another monster holiday quarter. To this point, Apple projects that revenue for the current quarter will fall somewhere in the $84 billion to $87 billion range. Notably, even the low-end of that estimate would represent an all time quarterly record for revenue.
By all accounts, one would assume that analysts would be impressed. Not only is the iPhone X in high demand, but interested consumers won’t have to wait weeks or even months for the device to ship. It would appear to be a win-win, but as things tend to go with Apple, analysts have a peculiar habit of casting a negative light on anything Apple does.
So what’s the problem this time? Well, one analyst is bizarrely concerned that Apple improved iPhone X supply too quickly.
Highlighted by The Wall Street Journal, Instinet analyst Jeffrey Kvaal recently downgraded Apple because iPhone X sales next quarter may be lower due to higher than expected iPhone sales this quarter.
Noting that shipment times on the iPhone X are now just a single day, Mr. Kvaal worries that this means less potential upside to the 79 million iPhone units Wall Street expects Apple to ship in the December quarter, as well as less demand slipping into the March period for which analysts are currently expecting a 22% year over year gain in unit sales.
By all accounts, iPhone X sales remain robust across the globe. Even in China, one of Apple’s more strategic markets, the pricier and more margin-friendly 256GB iPhone X remains the more popular model. In other words, it stands to reason that increased iPhone availability has more to do with Apple ramping up production as opposed to withering demand.
Kvall’s investor note reads in part:
We argue that the stock’s gains for the iPhone X supercycle are in the late innings. We believe unit growth, if not quite ASP growth, is well anticipated by consensus and a historically full multiple.
But so it goes in the land of Apple, where even good and encouraging news can be magically twisted and morphed into a cautionary tale.