Peak Apple?

Posted: January 25th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

It’s that time of the year…peak Apple Predictions! Consumer Reports didn’t recommend the Macbook for the first time ever. Less iPhone units shipped and revenue shrunk in 2016. The sky is falling! Apple is done!

Or is it? The products, leadership, cash on hand, potential and macro trends make me think the peak of Apple is a ways out (I define “peak Apple” as a peak in market cap).

Leadership

Cook is no Jobs but he’s done a hell of a job. The numbers are impressive. Since Cook took over, revenue is up 99% without sacrificing margins and over $185 billion in cash has been returned to shareholders. With Cook leading the company and Jony leading the products, leadership at Apple continues to be strong.

Peak iPhone?

Apple shipped 211 million iPhones in 2016, a dip from the 231 million iPhones shipped in 2015 but an impressive number. Apple shipped 169 million iPhones in 2014, making it’s jump to 231 million in 2015 a huge 37% increase. 2015’s shipments was helped by the penetration in China and the relatively newness of the larger iPhone screens. Although shipments dipped in 2016 the macro trends are in Apple’s favor.

There are approximately 2.1 billion smartphone users and 7 billion people in the world. The vast majority of people do not own a smartphone. It is estimated that smartphone users will grow to 2.9 billion by 2020. That’s 50% growth in 3 years for the overall market size for Apple to get a piece of.

The majority of new smartphone owners will not be able to afford an iPhone but there is one market where Apple’s chances looks promising – India. iPhone shipments were up 50% in India in 2016 and although the market is accustomed to paying less for a smartphone, as incomes rise so will interest in iPhones.

Unless the buying cycle changes to more than the current 2 year cycle or a competitor starts converting iPhone customers, I expect iPhone growth overtime to continue in line with smartphone user growth (a slower rate than it did in the previous decade).

Current Product Lineup

Apple’s revenue breakdown is 60% iPhone, 10% iPad, 10% Macs, 15% Services and 5% other products (like the Watch). I don’t expect much growth with the iPad but I believe it will be a healthy product line for years to come. The majority of startups use Macbooks and every college kid has one. As the overall PC industry declines Mac sales have stayed resilient. Will Mac sales ever make up the majority of PC shipments? It’s a long way to go, but that’s the bet I’m making.

The Watch and new AirPods are products an anti-peak Apple person can be excited about. At $269 a pop, the Watch isn’t cheap and yet Apple was able to sell $6 billion dollars worth its first year and shipped 25M units in less than two years. Once Watch becomes a standalone device and Apple gets the entry-level price point down to $150, we’ll see a huge boom in sales. For those questioning if Apple still has its je ne sais quoi, the AirPods by all accounts show that Apple can introduce best-in-class products.

Potential New Products

The biggest difference between Apple’s stock price compared to Google’s, Amazon’s or Facebook’s is that little of it is based on potential. Since Apple keeps their product roadmap close to their chest, Wall Street can’t justify lofty valuations based on a product coming any day now.

Apple makes computer widgets. Big computers, handheld computers, wrist-sized computers, etc. Apple designs processors and software. They do this better than any other company in the world and they have over $230 billion dollars in cash. Whether it’s a TV, a Car or a VR device, Apple has the means and know-how to crush any of these markets.

Bottom Line

We’re not at Peak Apple. iPhone shipments in 2017 will grow compared to 2016 due to growth in China and India. iPad and Macbook biz will remain steady. Watch will get cheaper and better. Apple will ship more Watch units for more revenue. Services will continue to grow as they enter the original content game. In the long term, Apple will use their $230 billion dollar war chest for a new product that will grow the business significantly. Tim Cook and Jony Ive will ensure Apple plays the long game and doesn’t optimize for short-term stock growth.

In other words, Apple’s death has been greatly exaggerated.

 



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