Talk about “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Apple unveiled the tenth-anniversary iPhone X last September, and people lost their minds when the company said it would charge $999 for the entry-level model and a whopping $1,149 for the version with 256GB of storage. Despite the popularity of smartphone financing plans in the United States and several other top smartphone markets around the world, some industry watchers were appalled, and they said a price tag above $1,000 was far too much to charge for the redesigned iPhone.
Apple doesn’t break down its iPhone sales by model so we’ll never know exactly how many iPhone X units were sold during the holiday quarter. We’ll certainly get a few hints when Apple reports its December-quarter results on Thursday, particularly when analysts begin to dissect iPhone unit sales and ASPs. Ahead of Apple’s earnings report though, one industry watcher has expressed concern about Apple’s future performance. Doom and gloom is nothing new for Apple, of course, but one point in the analyst’s note is of particular interest: After all the hubbub Apple’s $1,000+ iPhone X caused, there are now worries that Apple’s iPhone prices will not continue to rise.
With just a day to go until Apple reports its fiscal first-quarter earnings, everyone seems to be coming out of the woodwork with a hot take. We’ve covered a few different points of view, and now the latest comes from BMO Capital Markets analyst Tim Long.
Long isn’t overly concerned with Apple’s holiday quarter and instead looks ahead to the March quarter, where he sees trouble brewing. “We expect a meaningful guide lower when the company reports on Thursday night, on the order of $5-6 billion compared to consensus revenue estimates,” the analyst wrote in a note to clients seen by BGR.
The Street’s consensus for Apple’s fiscal second-quarter revenue guidance is currently about $45.5 billion, and Long had issued a $46 billion estimate. He has now revised that guess down to just $39.9 billion for the March quarter, which cutting his rating on Apple shares to Market Perform from his earlier Outperform rating. Beyond the second quarter, Long sees problems down the road, largely because Apple will not continue to increase the price of its iPhones, which means ASPs won’t continue to climb.
“Following 10 years where ASPs have generally moved higher, we believe prices will plateau as with the rest of the industry,” Long wrote.
He continued, “Apple has done a good job of moving ASPs higher despite others in the industry flat-lining. We estimate that about 30% of iPhones will be priced over $900 this year, but we do not expect this figure to go any higher, particularly as only 12% of smartphones globally sell for over $600.”
Of note, Apple is widely expected to release three new iPhone models this September, including a larger “iPhone X Plus” that is priced higher than Apple’s current iPhone X model. While Long makes no mention of it, he apparently isn’t impressed with what he’s heard about Apple’s 2018 iPhone lineup so far.
“We still view the iPhone base as growing, and the devices are on average getting older. However, without a compelling product cycle in September, we may see a slow upgrade cycle once again,” the analyst wrote. “The recent stock reaction reminds us of early 2016, but later that year many investors started looking towards OLED and the 10-year anniversary phone, which drove the stock higher. No such product is on the horizon now.”
Long also believes Apple won’t see any growth this year in the key China market, and he revised his full-year revenue estimate down to $161 billion from his earlier $176.88 billion estimate.