“The $399 price point for the iPhone SE was an absolute bombshell,” tweeted Kirk Burgess of the independent Braeburn Group, putting an incendiary spin on what was largely an “as expected” event by Apple on Monday. The notes from Wall Street analysts were generally positive, but more buttoned-down. To spice things up, I’ve included a sampling of commentary from beyond Wall Street, where Apple (AAPL) analysts have more freedom and a lot more attitude.
Gene Munster, Piper Jaffray: iPhone SE Pricing Event’s Only Surprise, Now Eyes To September. The biggest “feature” of the iPhone SE is the starting price of $399, which was 11% below our expectation for $450. The strong price and feature set lead us to believe the device will be largely model neutral by driving some incremental unit sales in emerging markets, but also cannibalizing some sales from the ~$550 price tier (also higher-margin). Overweight. $172.
Katy Huberty, Morgan Stanley: Apple Lowers iPhone and Watch Entry Price to Attract New Users. iPhone SE ships on March 31, after the end of the March quarter. Assuming Apple incorporated this timing in their March quarter guidance, then guidance implies underlying iPhone demand may be better than many investors think. This corroborates our AlphaWise Tracker, which indicated 56.5M unit demand in the March quarter using data through the month of February. We believe a combination of positive earnings revision and slight multiple re-rating from better iPhone demand will drive shares higher. Overweight. $135
Timothy Arcuri, Cowan: New Tricks for Old(er) Dogs. While neither iPhone SE or 9.7″ iPad Pro were unexpected, these are very powerful products at attractive price points. By pushing today’s innovations into yesterday’s form factors, AAPL forms a more diversified “high-end” product stratification while also moving down the price/demand elasticity curve… While we remain generally cautious on Watch barring an un-tethered version, we continue to model ~25MM units for C2016 (up from ~12MM in C2015)—a number which looks increasingly optimistic as AAPL wouldn’t be cutting pricing by $50 and still not disclosing units if the Watch was selling well. We also note that there have already been several retailers offering the Watch at this new $299 price point, so it is hard to see the price cut stimulating much incremental demand. Market perform. $125.
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Amit Daryanani, RBC: Good Things Come in Small Packages, But Do You Worry About Margins Now? Net/Net: AAPL stock moves with iPhone units and this announcement will drive upside to units, we think you could see ~15M unit uplift, with estimated blended ASP of $450 we think iPhone SE could drive $6.8B of sales (3% of total) and $0.28 EPS (3% of total)… Plenty of Catalysts Ahead: 1) Capital Allocation update (likely late April event), 2) Better June-qtr guide specially given contribution from SE, 3) iPhone 7 ramps in Sept & beyond and 4) potentially offering iPhone Upgrade program globally. Outperform. $130.
Walter Piecyk, BTIG: Does The SE Pricing Mean Anything For The 5S In Emerging Markets? The iPhone SE, a 4-inch phone that updates the two-year-old iPhone 5S, was introduced for $50 less than the 5S. That was a surprise. Apple more typically would have introduced the SE at current 5S pricing of $450 and then cut the pricing on the 5S. It could be that Apple ends up cutting the iPhone 5S by $150 to $300 for sale in select markets, as we have seen them do in some emerging markets in the past. Buy. $141.
Aaron Rakers, Stifel: New iPhone SE = Expanding iPhone Installed Base. The iPhone SE will now include a NFC chip and is capable of Apple Pay. As a reminder, Apple Pay is available in US, UK, Canada, Australia, and China. The company highlighted over 3 million credit cards were added to Apple Pay in the first 2 days of availability in China earlier this year. Buy. $120.
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Abhey Lamba, Mizuho: F2Q16 results likely to end up near the low end of the outlook range. The company’s product announcements today will not help its March quarter results at all as it will close the books on 3/26 while new products will start shipping on 3/31. However, we note that the quarter’s results will include shipments during the holiday season (12/27 through 12/31), which should help the quarter’s performance. We expect the results to end up near the low end of its revenue forecast of $50-53bn vs consensus of $52bn. Buy. $120.
Rob Cihra, Sterne Agee: Atypical Mid-cycle SE Continues to Support Math and Our Expectation Mar-Qtr Proves Y/Y Trough in iPhone Declines. As expected, Apple Watch, while launched this time last year, did not get a refresh beyond some new bands, although entry price was cut $50 to $299. We continue to expect the Watch 2.0 refresh comes this fall but also think it could prove a bigger catalyst than now roundly muted expectations, since a large number of potential customers often purposely (wisely) wait for the gen-2 of a completely new product before buying. No refresh to MacBooks but Apple needs to start migrating to Skylake and so we expect updates between now and WWDC in June. Buy. $145.
Tavis McCourt, Raymond James: Few Surprises from March Product Event. One reason Apple may be launching [the new iPhone] is to keep the smaller 4 inch form factor in the lineup longer (the 5s typically would have been end of lifed this year), and, given the SE’s chipset, we think the new phone could remain in the market for another 2+ years, likely at decreasing prices though. Apple noted that smaller versions of the iPhone are commonly the device of choice for first time owners, suggesting that a lower price point and smaller model might entice more switching and create new customers. The SE is available for pre-order on 3/24/16 and will begin shipping on 3/31/16. Market perform.
Steve Milunovich, UBS: SE should prompt upgrades; the “Kits” promote the platform. The 15% of people that prefer 4″ phone should be pleased with the new iPhone SE, which brings the A9 processor, Touch ID with Apple Pay, and a 50% LTE speed up over the 5s at price points of $399 or $499. Apple said it sold 30mn 4″ phones last year; we estimate an additional 12mn SE units and have raised estimates. Also notable: (1) the Watch price was reduced $50 to $299, improving affordability; (2) a new 9.7″ iPad Pro, and (3) advancements to ResearchKit and introduction of CareKit. The latter two are examples of how Apple is creating a personal technology platform, which promotes the ecosystem that supports its premium hardware pricing. Buy. $120.
Thomas Husson, Forrester Research: While a low-key event, today’s announcements demonstrate Apple’s ability to successfully manage its product portfolio. The reason why so many brands will continue to invest in Apple’s ecosystem to engage its customers is because Apple will continue to offer reach among most mobile-savvy consumers while staying far away from Android’s fragmentation. The key stat shared today is the fact that 90% of Apple devices run with iOS 9.
Raymond Soneira, DisplayMate: The Night Shift, which turns down the amount of blue light produced by the display, won’t significantly affect the production of melatonin enough to influence the circadian rhythm and improve the user’s night time sleep cycle. I’ve looked into this before and it’s more of a placebo effect. Turning blue way down is what’s needed, and people won’t want to look at a screen with a strong yellow color cast.
Ben Bajarin, Creative Strategies: Apple in the “Post-Mature Consumer” Era. The era of hyper growth in smartphones and tablets is over. Which also means the land grab for global consumers is largely over. The most important dynamic facing Apple today is a maturing installed base and globally maturing Android owners. It was by no mistake Apple called out that the 4” iPhone form factor was serving as the global gateway for increasing numbers of brand new iPhone owners to enter Apple’s ecosystem. Much of this has to do with price more than size, but we can’t ignore the worldwide demand we see from customers in markets like China, India, Indonesia, and Brazil, who long to own an iPhone but simply can’t afford it. By essentially launching their first true mid-range priced iPhone with the iPhone SE at $399, Apple is targeting that market with a powerful offering.
Bob O’Donnell, TECHnalysis Research: Apple Moves to Middle Age. It’s not just the products themselves that seem to be aging either. The manner of delivering the message seems to be getting tired as well. Yesterday’s event could have been scripted out by any even reasonably-interested Apple follower. Other than pricing, virtually every aspect of every product discussed had been reported on previously… This trend of Apple news pre-releases seems to be getting worse and worse. Despite the company’s efforts to reign this in, most of the announcement events over the last few years have had relatively little “new” news. In fact, it’s getting so bad, you almost have to wonder if Apple is going to be able to keep their product launches as the critical kind of news-driving events that they used to always be.
John Gruber, Daring Fireball: Brief Thoughts and Observations. I detect an undercurrent of “That’s it?” in the collective response to today’s event, but I’m not sure what Apple could have done differently. A new iPhone and a new iPad demand a proper on-stage unveiling. That the event was held in Town Hall and not a larger venue was a signal that Apple wasn’t going to unveil anything spectacular. It’s not reasonable to expect the spectacular from every single event.
Neil Cybart, Above Avalon: The Apple Experience. [Tim] Cook is literally redefining the Apple CEO position, promoting and focusing on values and ideals that go beyond just hardware and software. In essence, Apple spent the first 24 minutes discussing the intangibles that make up the Apple experience while the remaining 39 minutes discussed the tangibles that go into the Apple experience.
Trip Chowdhry, Global Equities: Apple’s new product announcement today. Strong product announcements—Apple’s Aspirational Brand becomes more accessible with Lower Priced iPhone and Apple Watch—new iPad Pro makes the Apple Tablet market more attractive. However, Apple’s problems are not its products, but failed leadership of Tim Cook, Luca Maestri and Angela Ahrendts.