Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stole some of Samsung’s thunder yesterday. While Samsung was unveiling the new Galaxy S9, credible rumors about the iPhone X Plus surfaced.
Reports of the biggest iPhone ever, topping even Samsung’s Galaxy Note for display size combined with the suggestion Apple is trying to get a gold version ready, and also releasing an iPhone 8 replacement that looks like the iPhone X, sent AAPL stock up 2.1% at one point during the day.
The excitement is about the product mix. The $999 iPhone X failed to kick of the hoped for upgrade super cycle. But a trio of new smartphones, all sharing the same form factor, led by a super-sized iPhone X Plus, just might pull it off.
iPhone X Plus Revives Hopes of Upgrade Super Cycle
Remember the upgrade super cycle that was expected to push AAPL stock through the roof?
It didn’t happen.
Instead, iPhone X sales have been low enough to force Apple to cut orders with its suppliers. Part of the problem was blamed the iPhone 8 looking too much like previous generation iPhones, while the iPhone X is too small to appeal to super users.
Bloomberg published a report yesterday that says Apple is preparing a trio of new iPhones for 2018: an upgraded iPhone X, a 6.5-inch iPhone X Plus and a replacement for the iPhone 8 that looks like an iPhone X with a cheaper LCD display and some of its key features including Face ID. In addition, Apple is apparently hard at work on a gold color option for 2018, something it couldn’t pull off in time for the iPhone X.
The report touched off renewed hope for a so-called iPhone upgrade super cycle, causing AAPL stock to pop by as much as 2.1%.
Apple has seen its marketshare in Asia slide and reviving its fortunes there is a key way to boost overall iPhone sales, revenue and AAPL stock.
The new 2018 iPhone strategy as outlined by Bloomberg has key elements that should appeal to the Asian market. First, the release of a lower cost iPhone that looks like the iPhone X and offers much of its functionality helps with the affordability issues of a $999 iPhone X. The super-sized iPhone X Plus could be the real key, though. Phablets got their start in Asia, where many people carry a single device instead of both a smartphone and a tablet. The iPhone X Plus is going to check off a lot of boxes for this demographic that Apple couldn’t reach before. In the Bloomberg report, analyst Gene Munster notes:
“The market that will see the biggest jump in sales is likely Asia. That market has many single-device consumers, and they love big phones.”
In addition, the effort to make a gold color option for the 2018 iPhone X series is also a big deal in Asia. Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a 2015 interview:
“A big reason for why we released the gold iPhone as because many Chinese consumers like the color gold. To be clear, sales for the gold iPhones in China have far, far exceeded other markets.”
The trio of a more affordable iPhone that looks and functions much like the iPhone X, a huge iPhone X Plus and the re-introduction of gold as a color option could pay off big time for Apple in the Asian market.
The Risks of Apple’s Plans
If all this is true, the new iPhone strategy is not without risk.
Many consumers balked at a $999 iPhone X. Having it and an even more expensive iPhone X Plus in the mix could scare off even more potential upgraders. Not everyone likes the notch design of the iPhone X screen, so having that also on the more affordable iPhone model could turn off some buyers. They could flip to a more traditional premium smartphone like the Galaxy S9 or Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google Pixel instead. A super-sized iPhone X Plus could even eat into iPad sales, especially that of the iPad Mini.
But after a quarter in which iPhone sales slid year-over-year instead of setting new records, while worldwide smartphone sales marked their first recorded decline, Apple has to do something. If the rumors are correct, and Apple guesses right, an iPhone upgrade super cycle in 2018 could be the catalyst for further AAPL stock growth.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.