While tech giant Apple Inc. (AAPL) has outperformed the broader market in 2018, up about 5.2% year-to-date (YTD) compared to the S&P 500's approximate 1.3% gain and the Nasdaq Composite Index's 5.3% return, one team of analysts recommends investors stay on the sidelines until the smartphone maker releases a new line of products. (See also: Apple Warns About Media Leaks—In a Leaked Memo.)
In a note to clients Monday, analysts at Raymond James, who rate AAPL at market perform, indicate that as the Cupertino, California-based smartphone maker struggles “with the rising cost of adding new features,” it has to continue to lift iPhone prices, which may or may not work out for the company.
“Apple has to increase pricing to add new features ... If you have to increase prices, the trick of course is to add features that a majority of customers are willing to pay for,” wrote the analysts, indicating that the firm failed to do so with its latest iPhone X offering.
iPhone X Didn't Hit the Spot
While the strategy of using price discrimination, in which Apple lifts prices on average, offering a high-end "latest and greatest" model and maintaining a handful of more budget-friendly options consumers not willing to pay up for new models, makes sense for the smartphone maker, some bears have viewed Apple's new products as a turn off for consumers who are flocking to cheaper phones from competitors. Plus, Raymond James contends that the iPhone X "didn't provide much incremental value aside from aesthetics. It’s a fantastic phone, no doubt. But iPhone 8 possesses almost the same functionality (albeit with a different screen and a different method of unlocking the phone), for a much lower price.”
As a result, the analysts do not foresee the tech giant's stock to perform well until its new iPhone lineup is released.
In light of issues with its smartphone business, including a slump in demand and lengthening replacement cycles for devices, bulls on the Street have applauded Apple's larger shift away from hardware to software and service businesses. These high-growth segments, including Apple Music and the App Store rake in subscription-based, recurring revenue streams and make the company less reliant on smartphone sales. (See also: Why These 4 Big Tech Stocks Are Bargains.)