Optimism was high heading into Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) - Get Free Report big September unveiling event, but expectations seem to have tempered a bit as Wall Street digests the latest numbers and news about sales of theiPhone 8 and 8 Plus.
The latest data from mobile app analytics company Localytics shows that fewer Apple users may be adopting the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus than did the iPhone 5S back in 2013. Localytics noted that its statistics don't represent actual sales of the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus, but measures users who have received their phones and are using apps.
Compared to the blockbuster iPhone 6 in 2015, of which 2% of Apple users adopted the device in its first weekend, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have seen adoption rates of just 0.3% and 0.4%, respectively, so far. That's less than the iPhone 5S, which saw 0.9% adoption in its first weekend.
When Apple releases a new iPhone, the product launches typically attract droves of people in lines that snake out the door. That didn't seem to be the case this year, despite CEO Tim Cook's comments that Apple had "sold out of iPhone 8 and 8 Plus in some stores." Instead, the event attracted "modest" crowds and lines that were thinner than in the past, said Citi analyst Jim Suva. Ship times for devices ordered online were also quicker than previous years.
"We aren't surprised that current ship times are quicker and lines shorter than prior launches, as we believe users will wait to compare to iPhone X before making a final purchase," Suva added. "With the launch of iPhone X being later than we had initially expected (Nov. 3 vs. mid-Oct.) and potential for supply constraints, we are shifting demand from December quarter into the March quarter."
Suva reduced his fiscal fourth quarter estimates to sales of $49.5 billion and earnings of $1.79 per share. That's lower than consensus estimates of $50.9 billion in sales and earnings per share of $1.88.
Shares of Apple were down 1.1% to $150.25 on Monday, and have dropped about 6% in the past week on concerns about sales of the new iPhones and Apple Watch.
Like Suva, KeyBanc analyst John Vinh observed tepid receptions for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, saying that initial response has been "lukewarm" and that there appears to be ample supply of both devices at the stores he visited.
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"In contrast to previous iPhone launches, where carrier stores are commonly sold out at launch, feedback from carrier indicates the lack of significant feature enhancements and that consumers were waiting to purchase the iPhone X or wanted to compare the phone with the iPhone 8 before making a purchase decision," Vinh noted.
The iPhone X represents a major overhaul from prior versions, boasting Apple's first-ever edge-to-edge, organic LED screen, 3D facial recognition sensors, augmented reality features and wireless charging. The iPhone 8's form factor doesn't look very different from the iPhone 7/7S, but Apple says it's faster than its predecessors due to its new A11 "Bionic" processor, and also has some updated features such as wireless charging, True Tone display and a 12 megapixel camera.
Not everyone is so sure that it's all gloom and doom for Apple, however. In a Monday note, Drexel Hamilton analyst Brian White said Apple had pre-emptively provided "ample supply" of the 8/8 Plus, which is why many of its stores shelves are still stocked with the devices. He added that analysts might be getting thrown off by Apple staggering the release of the new models.
"This is a different iPhone launch and we believe this is confusing industry observers," White wrote. "Given the staggered launch in this cycle with the iPhone 8/8 Plus becoming available for pre-order on Sept. 15 and the iPhone X on Oct. 27, we believe this is causing more confusing data points relative to past cycles. Moreover, new iPhone buyers are increasingly buying online."
Longtime Apple analyst Gene Munster made a similar point in a note on Friday, noting that more iPhone users seem to be buying their phones online or via Apple's upgrade program.
Other analysts believe the apparently lackluster iPhone 8 demand is just setting Apple up for a super cycle driven by the iPhone X. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said on Monday that he estimates Apple will ship 40 million iPhone X units this year, with the phone in short supply until the first half of 2018.
Pent-up demand for the iPhone X would be the "best outcome" for Apple because the more expensive, higher-margin model would propel revenue and profits higher, said Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty, according to Fox Business.