RBC hikes Apple price target, citing strong demand for expensive iPhones

  • Consumers' intentions to purchase an iPhone increased to 26 percent versus 20 percent last year, an RBC survey found, with 68 percent of respondents hoping to buy higher-tier memory models.
  • "We think demand for this generation iPhones – XS Max/XS/XR - is robust and average selling prices and gross margins could improve," analyst Amit Daryanani says.
  • Daryanani hikes his price target, revenue and earnings per share estimates on Apple.
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., waves before speaking during the Apple World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, June 8, 2015.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., waves before speaking during the Apple World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, June 8, 2015.

The latest generation of pricier iPhones is attracting more demand than last year's models, and that should lead to a fatter bottom line for Apple, RBC Capital Markets said Wednesday.

Analyst Amit Daryanani hiked his price target on Apple shares to $250 from $240 after an RBC survey showed a marked uptick in buying intentions as well as growth in the number of customers opting for larger memory.

Intentions to purchase an iPhone increased to 26 percent versus 20 percent last year, Daryanani said in a note to clients. Sixty-eight percent of respondents hoped to buy higher-tier memory models.

The survey of more than 5,000 individuals also found positive trends for Apple Watch and strong demand for AirPods, Apple's wireless earbuds.

"We think demand for this generation iPhones – XS Max/XS/XR - is robust and average selling prices and gross margins could improve given mix benefits," Daryanani wrote in a note to clients. "iPhone XS Max was the most popular phone among prospective iPhone buyers with 25 percent preferring it in our survey despite its high price."

The newest generation of phones under CEO Tim Cook showcase a number of refinements from their iPhone X predecessors. While all three phones include popular features like facial recognition and wireless charging, many electing to upgrade have highlighted larger screens and the improved memory.

The XS Max, for example, boasts a 6.5-inch display – larger than the popular Samsung's Galaxy Note 9 – and up to 512 GB of memory.

The new XS models range from $999 to $1,449, according to Apple's website.

Any change in customer preference for more expensive phones helps drive up iPhone average selling price (ASP), a closely watched industry metric that helps Wall Street gauge Apple's revenue. And with more people indicating plans to purchase iPhone with either 512 GB or 256 GB, Apple's ASP is likely to inflate further.

Daryanani, who has a buy rating on Apple, revised his September-quarter revenue and earnings estimates to $62.2 billion and $2.80 per share, respectively, up from $61.1 billion and $2.76.

"In case of iPhone X, for the first time, a majority of users had indicated preference for the highest storage models with over 57 percent opting for the 256 GB model. In iPhone XS/XS Max, the skew gets even strong with 68 percent opting for higher than 64 GB base storage," the analyst said.

Apple shares closed down 0.8 percent Wednesday, but are up more than 30 percent this year. Daryanani's new price target represents more than 12 percent upside from Tuesday's close.