Smartphones have proved to be a breakaway success in consumer electronics - not to mention a multibillion-dollar market opportunity. Not surprisingly, this has fueled runs in a number of stocks and significant investor interest in playing the ecosystem. Now, investors have an easier one-stop shop for this play with the introduction of First Trust's Smartphone Index Fund (Nasdaq:FONE). (For some background on the smartphone market, check out The Apple Ecosystem.)

IN PICTURES: 9 Simple Investing Ratios You Need To Know

Smartphone ETF: How It's Built
FONE is an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that is designed to closely track the Nasdaq OMX CEA Smartphone Index. This index includes a variety of companies organized into three primary categories - handsets, software applications and hardware components, and network providers - with 45% weightings to the first two and 10% to the last. Within each segment, the components are equally weighted.

The Good
There is no question that FONE offers a diversified play on a broad definition of the smartphone market. All in all, the fund holds 73 positions with the top 10 positions amounting to about 28% of the total holdings. While the expense ratio is something of an issue, it is hard to see how a retail investor could assemble anything close to a diversified portfolio of similar component, service and equipment stocks and not spend more in commissions.

What's more, some investors may be surprised at how globally diversified this fund is as well - U.S.-based companies make up slightly less than 44% of the fund, while Asian companies comprise about one-third of the holdings. This could be a major positive for investors who want to be more internationally diversified, but either cannot or will not invest directly in overseas markets or the often-illiquid ADRs that trade over here. (For more, see Exchange-Traded Funds: Background.)

The Bad
There are some apparent drawbacks to this fund. For starters, the fund's 0.7% expense ratio is no particular bargain by ETF standards.

The make-up of the fund is also something of an issue; a sizable chunk is invested in assemblers and providers of electronics manufacturing services like Flextronics (Nasdaq:FLEX). As an industry, these companies have a rather iffy history of returns on capital, are not generally seen to have strong economic moats and tend to have rather cyclical growth patterns. Consequently, the nearly 20% weighting to this industry might be problematic for some investors.

Likewise, some investors may be unhappy with the apparently low weightings of heavy-hitters like Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL) and ARM Holdings (Nasdaq:ARMH). Going a step further, the presence of stocks like Verizon (NYSE:VZ), China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) and AT&T (NYSE:T) may be a weird counterbalance. Smartphones are a hot growth area in tech right now, and more aggressive tech-oriented investors may not find these slow-growing dividend-paying stocks to their liking. What's more, there is not enough weighting here to really turn this into one of those rare "income plus tech" opportunities. (For more, see 4 Steps To Building A Profitable Portfolio.)

The Weird
The rules governing how the index (and by extension, the fund) is set up lead to some strange outcomes. For example, few component companies seem to get as much smartphone-related press as Broadcom (Nasdaq:BRCM), and yet Broadcom is a smaller position in the fund than Atmel (Nasdaq:ATML). Likewise, much has been made of Google's (Nasdaq:GOOG) operating system, but Google represents less of the fund than ON Semiconductor (Nasdaq:ONNN).

Going a step further, it is interesting to see that Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) are not listed in the holdings - a rather damning indictment of HP's purchase of Palm and the progress of Intel/Microsoft in penetrating this market.

The Bottom Line
For investors who would expect a smartphone ETF to be a retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with Apple in the role of Snow White and chip stocks like Broadcom playing the role of "dwarf", FONE might be something of a surprise. On one hand, the fund may find criticism for being neither fish nor fowl, but others will see that as a strength and a selling point.

The smartphone ecosystem and market opportunity is bigger and broader than many people often believe. This fund makes a rather bold attempt to embrace and reflect that reality. Investors should be cautious about the heavy role of assemblers in this fund, but those looking for a broad play on components, software and services tied to the major growth consumer electronic market of current times might find this fits the bill nicely. (For more, see Sector-Based ETFs Spread Out Risk.)

Use the Investopedia Stock Simulator to trade the stocks mentioned in this stock analysis, risk free!

Related Articles
  1. Investing News

    Latest Labor Numbers: Good News for the Market?

    Some economic numbers are indicating that the labor market is outperforming the stock market. Should investors be bullish?
  2. Investing News

    Stocks with Big Dividend Yields: 'It's a Trap!'

    Should you seek high yielding-dividend stocks in the current investment environment?
  3. Investing News

    Should You Be Betting with Buffett Right Now?

    Following Warren Buffett's stock picks has historically been a good strategy. Is considering his biggest holdings in 2016 a good idea?
  4. Products and Investments

    Cash vs. Stocks: How to Decide Which is Best

    Is it better to keep your money in cash or is a down market a good time to buy stocks at a lower cost?
  5. Investing News

    Who Does Cheap Oil Benefit? See This Stock (DG)

    Cheap oil won't benefit most companies, but this retailer might buck that trend.
  6. Investing

    How to Ballast a Portfolio with Bonds

    If January and early February performance is any guide, there’s a new normal in financial markets today: Heightened volatility.
  7. Stock Analysis

    Performance Review: Emerging Markets Equities in 2015

    Find out why emerging markets struggled in 2015 and why a half-decade long trend of poor returns is proving optimistic growth investors wrong.
  8. Investing

    Don't Freak Out Over Black Swans; Be Prepared

    Could 2016 be a big year for black swans? Who knows? Here's what black swans are, how they can devastate the unprepared, and how the prepared can emerge unscathed.
  9. Investing News

    Today's Sell-off: Are We in a Margin Liquidation?

    If we're in market liquidation, is it good news or bad news? That party depends on your timeframe.
  10. Investing News

    Bank Stocks: Time to Buy or Avoid? (WFC, JPM, C)

    Bank stocks have been pounded. Is this the right time to buy or should they be avoided?
RELATED FAQS
  1. When does a growth stock turn into a value opportunity?

    A growth stock turns into a value opportunity when it trades at a reasonable multiple of the company's earnings per share ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the formula for calculating EBITDA?

    When analyzing financial fitness, corporate accountants and investors alike closely examine a company's financial statements ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How do I calculate the P/E ratio of a company?

    The price-earnings ratio (P/E ratio) is a valuation measure that compares the level of stock prices to the level of corporate ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How do you calculate return on equity (ROE)?

    Return on equity (ROE) is a ratio that provides investors insight into how efficiently a company (or more specifically, its ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How do you calculate working capital?

    Working capital represents the difference between a firm’s current assets and current liabilities. The challenge can be determining ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the formula for calculating the current ratio?

    The current ratio is a financial ratio that investors and analysts use to examine the liquidity of a company and its ability ... Read Full Answer >>
COMPANIES IN THIS ARTICLE
Trading Center