Apple can still get more people to buy its services even if iPhone sales fall: Tech analyst

  • Apple's subscription services strategy will work because it is not dependent on new unit sales, Macquarie Group analyst Ben Schachter says.
  • "If someone has an older iPhone, they can still access the services," he says.
  • Macquarie cut its 12-month price target from $222 to $188 because growth in the services business could slow in the near term, he says.

Apple can still get more people to buy its services even if consumers aren't buying as many new iPhones as in years past, Macquarie Group analyst Ben Schachter told CNBC on Thursday.

That's because, to an extent, the tech giant's services business is independent of its unit sales, he said.

"If someone has an older iPhone, they can still access the services," especially in the developing Chinese and Asian markets, Schachter said on "Squawk Alley." "They're able to sell a lot of these apps on services on these phones that they're not necessarily selling new."

Apple wants to highlight the growth of its services business on top of the iPhone business, which has seen relatively flat unit sales. The company missed iPhone sales estimates in its last quarter by more than half a million units.

Schachter expects Apple's music, forthcoming video, extended warranties and app store to be some of the main services that will drive growth. But he thinks services growth will slow down in 2019 compared with this year.

Macquarie has cut its 12-month price target from $222 to $188, which would be an 11 percent increase from Wednesday's closing price of $169. And it's not the only firm to do so: Piper Jaffray, along with others, also cut its projection to $222 from $250.

"We still like it long term ... but in the near term, we are concerned that you are going to see some slowing of that growth," he said. "One of the big issues here is ... they're actually quite leveraged to growth in apps and, particularity, games in China. And as the game market in China slows and there's some restrictions from the Chinese government, that can impact this company in a way that people don't necessarily understand."

Apple announced Thursday morning that it will invest $1 billion in a new campus in Austin, Texas, that will make way for at least 5,000 new jobs in engineering, R&D, operations, finance, sales and customer support.

Shares of the tech company were up 1 percent midafternoon Thursday, but the stock is still down nearly 30 percent from a 52-week high set in October.

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