Now that Apple Inc. (AAPL) has finally lifted the veil on its next generation iPhones, the speculation has begun on whether the new phones will trigger another "super cycle" of customer upgrades, similar to the one experienced for the larger-screen iPhone 6.
Several Wall Street analysts seem to think so. Many are calling the special edition iPhone X Apple's most revolutionary phone to date because of its Super Retina organic LED edge-to-edge display, glass casing, wireless charging technology, AR capabilities and 3D sensing chip (Apple's other new models, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, represent a more modest upgrade from the iPhone 7). The analysts argue that the latest iPhones, coupled with pent-up demand from an aging iPhone user base, could propel the tech giant's bottom line to new record-breaking heights.
"We continue to feel confident that the iPhone X is likely to spur a consumer 'supercycle,' à la the iPhone 6," wrote Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi.
Meanwhile, JPMorgan analyst Katy Huberty wrote that she believes Wall Street is underestimating how much pent-up demand from existing iPhone owners could lead to a surge in Apple's fiscal 2018 earnings per share. She estimated that there's a user base of 231 million people with two-year-old iPhones that are in need of an update. As a result, Apple could see earnings of $11.80 per share in 2018 vs. Wall Street's expected $10.81 per share.
Other analysts, including Amit Daryanani of RBC Capital Markets, also say that the form factor upgrade will be enough to to drive one of "the strongest iPhone cycles in recent years."
"This year's event marked one of the most highly anticipated product announcements in recent years, and from a product perspective, the company did not disappoint," Daryanani added.
A possible iPhone super cycle also means Apple would need to break its own record, set in 2015 after the release of the iPhone 6. The iPhone 6, released in Sept. 2014, unlocked an avalanche of demand from users who had stuck with the iPhone 4 or 5 and were looking to upgrade. It was released just as the phablet -- part phone, part tablet -- had its breakthrough moment and, all of a sudden, users wanted smartphones with extra-large screens.
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Since then, that larger form factor has become the norm of the smartphone market, and fewer and fewer innovative smartphone features have been released. It's partly why some users with an iPhone 6 or older held off from buying the iPhone 7, which, along with other issues, caused Apple to sell fewer iPhones in 2016, its first year-over-year iPhone sales decline in more than 15 years.
Now, analysts believe the iPhone X will be able to help Apple bounce back to iPhone 6 levels, when Apple's stock outperformed the Nasdaq by 9.5 percentage points in the two months following its release, according to Bloomberg.
There is one sticking point, however. Apple said on Tuesday that the iPhone X won't ship until Nov. 3, with pre-orders beginning on Oct. 27. This could become problematic if users want to upgrade and Apple's iPhone X supply can't meet those demands.
"There's going to be an incredible [number] of people that are going to wait for the iPhone X, but my concern is whether they can ship enough of them to be able to fulfill those needs," said Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights & Strategy. "So maybe it's a super cycle, but it may not happen until the first quarter or second quarter of 2018."
Apple apparently had to delay the ship date of the iPhone X due to the device's custom components that are hard to source. The OLED display and 3D sensing chip are both believed to be facing supply constraints. With the $999 phone not arriving until November or later, Apple is testing both consumers' patience and their wallets, which could prompt some impatient buyers to turn to comparable edge-to-edge, OLED models from Samsung (SSNLF) , Moorhead noted, such as the Galaxy S8 and Note 8.
Still, more often than not, Apple buyers are loyalists who will stick with the brand.
"iPhone users are a very loyal bunch, but as we see in anything, loyalty is tested all the time," Moorhead said. "So it's how much do I want [the iPhone X], how badly do I need it and when do I need it? It's that percentage of people who want the X and can't get the X -- are they going to wait and buy the 8 or are they going to go with Samsung?"
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