Apple earnings: Investors look for signs of what's next

Apple on deck: Earnings preview

When Apple reports its fiscal third-quarter earnings on Tuesday, investors will be looking beyond the numbers and watching to see if the company drops any hints of what and when new products may be in the pipeline.

"Investors will be looking for hints about how soon and how strong and what new market categories Apple may be working on," said Alex Gauna, an analyst at JMP Securities. "They can't afford to lay a major egg; no tech company can afford to do that. But as long as gross margins hold up, they should get a pass."

Gauna, who has a "market outperform" rating on the stock with a $135 price target, said that investors will be specifically interested to see if Apple's CEO Tim Cook drops any news about a possible smartwatch.

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"What I think is interesting about Apple is all the new chapters that can open up," Gauna said. "A lot of people are expecting an iWatch, and that's a big opportunity—it's a $10 billion market in wearables right now."

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Along with the company's push into wearables, investors will also be listening for clues about when the company plans to launch the iPhone 6, said Abhey Lamba, an analyst at Mizuho Securities.

"Most focus will be on the iPhone 6, even though they probably won't say much about it, investors will be trying to read the tea leaves," said Lamba, who has a 'buy' rating on the stock with a $95.35 price target.

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Apple's gross margins would likely be boosted by the the iPhone 6—which is widely speculated to have a larger screen—and the long-rumored iWatch, said Steven Milunovich, managing director and analyst for UBS, on "Squawk Alley."

However, product timing issues could skew guidance, sending shares lower, he said. If that happens, investors should use that opportunity to buy shares, he added.

"The stock could go down a little bit, but at the end of the day, it really depends on what are the new products; are they going to be in demand; [and] will they have reasonable gross margins? We believe the answer is yes to that, and therefore we would be buying on the weakness," Milunovich said.

Analysts expect the company to post earnings of $1.23 per share on revenue of $37.98 billion in revenue, according to a Thomson Reuter's survey of analysts.

Last quarter, Apple surprised the Street reporting iPhones sales of 43.7 million, well ahead of the 37 million to 38 million iPhones analysts had expected. Since then the company has seen its share price soar more than 25 percent.

Lamba said that he expects in-line results, which will be driven by sales of the iPhone 4S in China. He said he expects iPhone shipments of 34 million to 35 million units for the quarter, with China Mobile being responsible for about 7 million to 8 million units.

Strong earnings results from some of Apple's suppliers, however, may mean the tech giant could post a positive surprise, Gauna said.

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For example, Skyworks posted 35 percent revenue growth year over year when it reported earnings last week and that could translate to good news for Apple, he said.

"We're hoping for a beat and raise from Apple. What we saw in the seasonality from its key ODM suppliers in Taiwan was much better than the down mid-teens quarter Apple guided to. And we think that that sets it up well," Gauna said. "We think that sets Apple up for an upside surprise on gross margins."

By CNBC's Cadie Thompson. CNBC's Bruno J. Navarro and Drew Sandholm contributed to this report.