For Apple, mum's the word on iPhone 5C pre-orders
Apple's iPhone 5C became available for pre-order last week, but the company has been unusually quiet about the number of devices it has sold so far.
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The 5C, Apple's lower-cost smartphone with a plastic casing, became available for pre-order on Friday with subsidized pricing starting at $99. The iPhone 5S goes on sale in stores and online this Friday with subsidized pricing starting at $199.
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In the past, the tech giant has been quick to boast about its high sales during the first few hours its devices became available. The fact that the company has kept mum on the matter so far has lead some to speculate that the early pre-order numbers aren't as good as they had been for earlier models.
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But even if Apple has low pre-orders for the 5C, it may not matter that much because the company's business strategy is shifting, Alex Gauna, a senior research analyst at JMP Securities, said Tuesday on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."
"Apple is fighting against a law of large numbers, a lot more diversity of competition right now, and I think people have figured out they don't have to get in line for these new phones. They know if Apple runs out they will build more," Gauna said. "Right now we can read something into this—there haven't been as many pre-orders, but what I think is more important for Apple is the global expansion of this story."
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Apple has dramatically increased support for 3G and 4G LTE in its new devices, a hint that the company will be bringing its devices into new markets.
"There's a very big opportunity for channel-fill out there," said Gauna, who has a "market perform" rating on Apple's stock. However, he said, competition from Android has turned it into a zero margin game for Apple right now, so Wall Street is also looking for Apple to reach into new categories to expand its business.
"Investors have figured out it's not really about the hardware right now. What Wall Street is looking for is something new for the business model like new software and new services," Gauna said.
While Apple growth in the high-end of the smartphone market may be tapering, new product launches next year could help push the share price back up above $500, said Abhey Lamba, a senior equity research analyst at Mizuho Securities.
Lamba, who has a "buy" rating on the stock with a $520 price target, said he expects Apple to release the iPhone 6 sometime during the middle of 2014 and for that device to come in with larger screen.
"That will be a key catalyst," he said. "It will be a much bigger product cycle. There will be a new product category, some watch form. 2014 will be a product cycle for Apple and that will get us out of this range."
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—By Cadie Thompson, CNBC. Follow her on Twitter @CadieThompson.