Why Apple may get a bigger bump from event than expected
Apple may get a bigger boost from its event next week than previously expected, industry analysts said.
Analysts expect Apple to release the next generation iPhone, dubbed the iPhone 5S, as well as a low cost iPhone—likely to be called the iPhone 5C—at a media event next Tuesday. And while these devices have been anticipated for some time, analysts are now expecting to see more demand for them than previously estimated.
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"We expect these refreshes, along with the potential for incremental distribution of the iPhone, to drive improved unit volume, stabilized gross margin and accelerating operating profit in the coming quarters," said Andy Hargreaves, an analyst for Pacific Crest Securities, in a note to clients.
Assuming the new iPhones are available on Sept. 20—which is nine days before the last day of the fourth quarter—Apple could sell at least 10 million units of the new iPhones, according to Hargreaves. By comparison, Hargreaves estimates that the company sold just over seven million iPhone 5 models in the nine selling days after its launch last year.
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In addition, Hargreaves—who has a perform rating on the stock—said he expects the company to sell 21 million units of old iPhone models (iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4), putting the total number of iPhones sold in the quarter at 31 million. However, the company could sell as many as 34 million iPhones if it has an "extremely efficient supply chain management" that would support 13 million units of the new iPhones to be made, he said.
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If the company does manage to sell 13 million units of the new models, it could boost its fourth quarter earnings quite a bit. According to Hargreaves earnings estimates, it would increase the company's EPS from his current estimate of $7.49 to over $8.00.
In looking at the first quarter, Hargreaves said that he expects the company to sell about 50 million iPhones (old and new), but said that number could go even higher if the company announces a deal with China Mobile, China's largest wireless carrier.
(The Wall Street Journal reported Friday afternoon that Apple has asked its manufacturing partners to ship completed iPhones to China Mobile, suggesting that a deal has been struck or is close to being done. For the full report click here).
The new low-cost iPhone will also likely mean that the company's stock price gets an immediate bump as well, which is not something that normally happens, said Brian Blair, a senior research analyst at Wedge Partners.
Apple's stock price pretty much follows the same pattern every time it hosts a major event and it's usually not good, Blair said.
"We get a lot of rumors, a lot of expectation built up into the event, the stock often does well right up to the day of the event and then inevitably there's some things that don't get announced that people expected and then we get a bit of a sell off," Blair said on CNBC's Squawk on the Street Friday.
But the event on Tuesday will likely be different, he said.
"I actually think it's going to be a great event and I actually think the stock is going to do well afterwards because they are going to show that they are going to attack the mid-tier smartphone market with this iPhone 5C, this plastic back multi-colored iPhone," he said. "That's going to get a lot of people excited that Apple can continue to grow iPhone units."
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But don't expect the company to get a boost from launching its own smartwatch or a larger iPhone this quarter, said Jonathan Geller, BGR.com founder and editor and chief. However, there could be another Apple surprise at the event.
"We are not going to hear about a watch. If anything we are going to hear about a TV," Gellar said.
He said he expects Apple may launch a larger iPhone next year, though.
Apple is also expected to launch its new operating system, iOS 7, as well as iRadio, which is the company's music streaming service. However, while the new OS and music service are both positive for the company, the most significant feature expected to be announced at the event is a biometric function built into an iPhone, Blair said.
Last year, Apple bought Authentic, a company that builds little biometric fingerprint sensors. It's speculated that Apple will use this technology in at least one of its new iPhone models. It's unclear exactly what exactly the sensor would be used for.
"The question is what is the functionality of that, is it just for passwords? Is it for security? or is there a larger e-commerce play that's associated with that," Blair said. "That is the big variable, that is the one possibility that could really get people excited."
—By CNBC's Cadie Thompson. Follow her on Twitter @CadieThompson.