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Apple Stock: iPhone Strength Has Become Consensus

Once a contrarian view, analysts are starting to agree that the iPhone will perform well against tough comps in the holiday quarter. Here is what investors should know.

As Apple stock  (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report tries to hang tight to all-time highs reached only a couple of days ago, investors have more reasons to be optimistic. Once a question mark, the current iPhone cycle is proving to be at least as strong as some of the more bullish analysts had predicted in 2019 and 2020.

Figure 1: Apple's latest iPhone model, the iPhone 13.

Figure 1: Apple's latest iPhone model, the iPhone 13.

Today, the Apple Maven looks at more data points coming from Wall Street suggesting that the iPhone will likely have a strong holiday quarter of sales in 2021.

(Read more from the Apple Maven: Will Apple Stock Be Up 25% Next Year?)

iPhone: a contrarian view at first

Few analysts dared to make bold, optimistic predictions about iPhone sales in the near term. Apple performed superbly in calendar 2020, particularly after the launch of the iPhone 12. See graph below.

Figure 2: iPhone revenue growth since F19.

Figure 2: iPhone revenue growth since F19.

One of the few to defy the consensus view that tough comps would lead to unimpressive growth in 2021-2022 was Wedbush’s Dan Ives. In our conversation of a few months ago, he stated:

“What the Street underestimates is how massive and elongated this super cycle is. If you look at it, we still have 25% of the base that has not upgraded their iPhones in the last three and a half years. […] 5G does not get fully embraced for the next two or three years, until the networks are built out.”

Recently, Dan Ives called for 80 million iPhone units sold in fiscal Q1 that ends next month. I calculated that, at an estimated ASP (average selling price) of $900 that relies on a heavy blend of higher-end devices sold, iPhone revenues could increase 10% over last year’s number, which in turn had already been a record quarter of performance for Apple’s smartphone segment.

Slowly becoming consensus

Now, other analysts are starting to think that the iPhone will perform well, even in the near term. JPMorgan’s (JPM) - Get JPMorgan Chase & Co. Report Samik Chatterjee, who thinks that AAPL stock has about 12% upside from here to a share price target of $180, sees strength in Greater China.

The analyst disclosed that October has been a great month of sales for the iPhone in the country: 10.8 million units shipped, the highest in any month since 2014. Mr. Chatterjee’s belief that this figure “hints toward a strong start for the iPhone 13 cycle in the region" suggests that China will continue to see outstanding revenue growth. As a reminder, Apple delivered 57% top-line increase in fiscal Q1 last year.

Even one of the most bearish on Wall Street, New Street’s Pierre Ferragu, appears to believe in upside potential to iPhone sales this quarter. He notes that iOS has grabbed 2 percentage points of market share from Android in China, although he continues to think that AAPL stock has 40%-plus downside risk from current levels.

Twitter speaks

Even one of the few AAPL bears seems to believe that the iPhone will find at least pockets of strength in the holiday quarter (namely in China). Do you think that Apple stock could still find uplift from iPhone sales in fiscal Q1?

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(Disclaimers: this is not investment advice. The author may be long one or more stocks mentioned in this report. Also, the article may contain affiliate links. These partnerships do not influence editorial content. Thanks for supporting The Apple Maven)