Apple introduced new versions of the iPhone and Apple Watch on Wednesday, but Apple’s stock price barely budged. That might be due to the plethora of accurate leaks about the new products over the past few months.
Nevertheless, Wall Street analysts—some of whom attended Apple’s two-hour, invite-only event—evaluated the new offerings and tried to assess what might happen next. Most were upbeat that iPhone 7 sales could help Apple meet or beat modest expectations, aided by a few targeted price increases and a boost to headphone sales from the controversial removal of the traditional headphone jack.
Long time Apple analyst Gene Munster at Piper Jaffray summarized how many felt about the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The new phones, with improved cameras, water resistance and faster processors, were “incrementally improved” from last year’s iPhones, he wrote, “but not meaningfully different.”
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Abhey Lamba at Mizuho Securities called the new iPhone features “largely evolutionary” overall. But with low expectations for sales of the new model, Apple “has potential to deliver positive surprise through year-end, especially if sell-through data supports continued share gains vs. Android,” Lamba posited.
The incremental improvements shouldn’t be seen as a bad move on Apple’s part, noted UBS analyst Steven Milunovich.
“Although investors have come to expect great product leaps from Apple, the fact is that that technology mostly improves in gradual steps,” Milunovich wrote. “Calling today’s announcements incremental is not to denigrate them. Speculation was again correct, so there were few surprises.”
A couple of analysts were less upbeat. “Overall, we thought that the phone was an improvement over previous models, but not a game changer that will reignite a significant upgrade cycle,” Sherri Scribner at Deutsche Bank wrote.
“These improvements do a good job of mirroring consumer needs as we believe potential buyers/upgraders consider photo quality, storage space, battery life, and processor speed when buying a new device,” Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi noted. “The real question is whether the improvements are good enough to spur upgrades – while the global installed base of iPhones is now an estimated 20% larger than it was a year ago, it is difficult to gauge exactly how upgrade rates might be impacted (and we suspect that sales of iPhones to first time buyers will decline).”
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Unlike customers, most of the analysts were pleased with Apple’s (AAPL) decision to increase prices by $20 on the new iPhone 7 Plus model and the Apple Watch Series 2.
“The $20 price increase for the 7 Plus helps to partially offset the gross margin impact of doubling the storage capacity, adding the dual-lens camera, and the Lightning port adapter,” Goldman Sachs analyst Simona Jankowski wrote on Thursday. “The price increase is unlikely to meaningfully reduce demand in the high-end, in light of the recent recall of its main competitor, Samsung’s Note 7, post battery explosions.”
The new Apple Watch added several features designed to attract hardcore fitness fans, particularly runners and swimmers. The Series 2 version is waterproof and can track swimming. It also has GPS built in so runners don’t have to carry their phones to track their routes. A partnership with Nike (NKE) resulted in a special model for runners. The moves could eat into sales by competitors such as Garmin (GRMN).
“We view the inclusion of GPS in the Watch and the partnership with Nike, in the context of a greater focus on fitness by Apple, as a risk for Sell-rated Garmin, particularly as new features are largely geared towards runners and swimmers,” Goldman Sachs’s Jankowski warned.