Cnet Columnits Shara Tibken claims that iPhone 7 may break Apple’s losing streak
Two years ago, analysts couldn’t find enough glowing adjectives to describe Apple’s fiscal first-quarter financial results.
“Stunning,” “outstanding” and “a monster” were what a few called Apple’s blowout quarter. Another simply said, “Wow!”
THE IPHONE 6 AND 6 PLUS, APPLE’S FIRST BIG SCREEN PHONES
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple’s first big-screen phones, drove the company to top Wall Street’s highest expectations. Apple sold more iPhones than ever before (up to that point) — 74.5 million units in 90 days — which led the company to beat the world record for quarterly profits.
Fast forward to 2017. It’s unlikely we’ll hear the same sort of enthusiasm following this year’s first quarter when Apple reports results Tuesday. That’s because the iPhone 7 doesn’t wow quite as much as its older sibling.
Analysts expect Apple to say it sold more iPhones in the first quarter than a year ago (78 million versus 74.8 million last year, according to UBS), breaking its three-quarter streak of declines. But they’re not expecting anything near the blowout from fiscal 2015.
Apple didn’t have a comment ahead of its earnings report.
The newest iPhones, the 7 and the 7 Plus, added features like better cameras and water resistance that have pleased many people. But the designs look a lot like the 2-year-old iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and the year-old 6S and 6S Plus. That’s led many people to opt for older phones instead of buying Apple’s latest and greatest, says Barclays analyst Mark Moskowitz.
ON TOP OF THAT, PEOPLE ARENT CLAMORING TO UPGRADE THEIR PHONES AS OFTEN
On top of that, people aren’t clamoring to upgrade their phones as often, he said. “Smartphones in general have evolved technologically to become more than good enough to serve most users’ digital needs over multiple years or until the device breaks,” Moskowitz noted.
Apple’s not the only one seeing this shift. The entire smartphone market slowed over the past few quarters as consumers cope with “phone fatigue.” Global phone shipments flatlined in 2016, according to market tracker IDC. The estimated 0.6 percent rise to 1.45 billion units is much less than the 10.4 percent growth rate the industry saw between 2014 and 2015.
The holiday sales season ending in December is typically Apple’s biggest, thanks to holiday shoppers and the fact that it’s the first full quarter of sales from the newest iPhone.
Overall, analysts expect Apple to report earnings of $3.22 a share, down from $3.28 a year earlier, according to Yahoo Finance. Revenue should climb 2 percent to $77.4 billion. (Apple in October projected sales of $76 billion to $78 billion, above analysts’ estimates at the time.)
The March quarter isn’t expected to be a blowout, either. Some analysts say Apple could forecast weaker revenue than Wall Street anticipates. (Currently analysts expect Apple’s fiscal second-quarter revenue to total $54 billion, up 6.9 percent from last year.) Along with weaker phone demand, some people could be holding out for what could be huge changes in the iPhone 8, which, if Apple follows its schedule from recent years, will be released in September.
THAT PHONE MARKS THE 10 THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE FIRST IPHONE
That phone marks the 10th anniversary of the first iPhone and the guess is that Apple will make big design tweaks, like adding an OLED screen to the device for the first time that makes blacker blacks. It may even make the bezel around the display smaller — or eliminate it all together — to make the touchscreen even bigger.
Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty says the iPhone 8 could drive a “supercycle” of sales, with iPhone shipments expected to rise at least 20 percent in 2018.
But for now, Apple’s got to get past what could be a boring fiscal 2017.