Apple earnings blowout may only be the beginning: Analysts

A customer poses with an iPhone 6 Plus and an iPhone 6 at the Fifth Avenue store in New York.
Adrees Latif | Reuters
A customer poses with an iPhone 6 Plus and an iPhone 6 at the Fifth Avenue store in New York.

Apple's blowout first quarter may have set records and spurred the company's stock price, but how long will the momentum last? Some analysts are betting for quite a while.

"Given this powerful iPhone cycle, a big 4G ramp in China and the upcoming launch of Apple Watch, we believe there is still plenty to look forward to at Apple during this transformational cycle," Cantor Fitzgerald's Brian White said in a note to clients Wednesday.

After Apple's impressive earnings beat Tuesday, several firms raised their price target for the stock, including Cantor Fitzgerald Equities Research, which bumped its target to $160 from $143. BTIG raised its price target from $135 to $150 and Evercore ISI changed went from $135 to $140.

Three of the biggest drivers analysts say will boost growth are more expansion into China, the launch of the Apple Watch and the potential of Apple Pay to gain serious traction.

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"There are several revenue drivers that will boost it. But in the short term it will be all about iPhone sales, and the key there is China," said Lou Basenese, founder of Disruptive Research. "There's a ton of headroom there for growth."

China

So far, Apple's big bet on China has paid off tremendously.

Revenues from its sales in greater China, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, came in at $16.14 billion for the quarter, up 70 percent year over year. Most of this growth stems from the high demand for Apple's iPhone in the region. In fact, iPhone units shipped in China were up 100 percent year over year.

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The company has big plans to continue its growth strategy in the region. Apple currently has about 20 stores in greater China, and expects to double the number by mid-2016. This speaks volumes about the room for growth, Basenese said.

"China ends up being a much bigger market than the U.S. and they are still early in their growth in China," Basenese said.

It's also worth noting that Apple's online sales in China last quarter were greater than for the past five quarters combined.

Apple Pay

On Tuesday, CEO Tim Cook said 2015 will be the year of Apple Pay. But that doesn't mean the company will begin to see significant revenue growth from the service just yet.

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It's more likely that in the short term, Apple Pay will help contribute to revenues by being an incentive for people to purchase a new iPhone 6. Money made from the Apple Pay service directly likely won't take off until 2016 or 2017, analysts said.

However, this year will be a big for building out the foundation for Apple Pay so that it can gain widespread adoption later, Nomura Securities' Stuart Jeffrey told CNBC on Wednesday.

"For 2015 Cook is right to say that this is a really important year for getting the footprint set up. In terms of revenues flowing I suspect 2017 might be a more reasonable year to expect something that might meaningfully impact earnings for Apple," Jeffrey said.

Currently about 69 percent of Apple's revenue comes from iPhone sales and only a small percentage from services like Apple Pay. But the service side of Apple's business could grow dramatically if the company expands Apple Pay broadly enough.

"Until now there's been no mobile payment solution that has captivated the masses, but I think Apple has a few key ingredients to do just that," Basenese said. "This year is laying out the infrastructure and getting the early adoption. And 2016 becomes the year when it goes international and it becomes ubiquitous."

Apple Watch

The rollout of the Apple Watch, which will be shipped in April, also has the potential to help the company's stock keep momentum, analysts said.

Read MoreWhy Apple stock is still cheap: Analyst

"The smart watch industry is significant, and we believe Apple has an opportunity to be the leader in this new product category. Given the company had approximately 800 million iTunes accounts (most with credit cards) as of April 2014, we believe Apple has a large group of Apple enthusiasts to sell into," White said in his note to clients.

The Cantor Fitzgerald analyst said the device could also become Apple's fastest selling new product category during the first year on the market, surpassing the iPad, which had 19.5 million units sold in its debut year. He forecasts the company selling 20.6 million units during the first year, driving revenue of $9.6 billion. This translates to about 6.8 million unit and revenue of about $3.2 billion for the 2015 fiscal year, White said.

But the pressure is on Apple to get its smartwatch correct right out of the gate, which could be a problem given the recent reports of the device having a poor battery life.

"Apple cannot afford to misfire with the Apple Watch. It's too big of a company for any product to be a failure. ... The one thing that becomes pivotal this year is the success of Apple Watch early on," Basenese said. "It's going to naturally drive more iPhone sales, so the adoption of the watch becomes critical."