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Apple Downgraded on Over-Hyped ‘iPhone 8’

January 24, 2017, 4:23 PM UTC

Apple’s next iPhone won’t have the kind of impact on the company’s business some hope it might, one analyst told investors in a research note on Tuesday.

Barclays analyst Mark Moskowitz on Tuesday downgraded Apple’s stock to equal weight from its previous overweight rating. Moskowitz, who also lowered Apple’s price target from $119 a share to $117, said that Apple’s next high-end handset, which he calls the iPhone 8, will be unable to overcome existing challenges in the smartphone maker’s business.

“Maturation of the device-centric consumer electronics adoption wave could weigh on both Apple and the smartphone market,” Moskowitz told investors. “We also are concerned the China smartphone market could sputter for another year, which had been a major growth engine for Apple.”

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Moskowitz added that the iPhone 8 won’t be able to buck a trend that’s seeing customers “increasingly” choose older devices, like the iPhone 6s, instead of newer handsets, like the iPhone 7. He called the phenomenon “mixing down.”

Apple is rumored to be working on a major new iPhone release this year. While the industry has generally called the rumored device the iPhone 8, Apple has not even announced future smartphone plans, let alone a name for a possible device.

As of this writing, several rumors suggest the iPhone 8 will sit alongside the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus, which will both offer only minor updates over last year’s iPhone 7. The iPhone 8, however, could come with an all-new glass design, a curved screen, and plenty of power under the hood. Apple is also rumored to be considering moving its Touch ID fingerprint sensor to under the glass. The iPhone 8 would celebrate the iPhone’s 10th anniversary.

According to Moskowitz, the Street generally believes the iPhone 8 could be a boon for Apple’s business and boost year-over-year iPhone shipments by more than 10%. Moskowitz, though, isn’t so sure.

“Our conversations with industry participants have painted a somewhat subdued outlook for both the iPhone’s revenue growth and mix profiles,” Moskowitz wrote. “What’s happening currently with the iPhone 7 as relates to a mixing down to 6S, combined with the potential of no must-have advanced features in iPhone 8, makes us skeptical of a meaningful growth rebound (i.e., 10%-plus) manifesting later this year.”

Moskowtiz added that the industry participants he spoke with believe “smartphones in general have evolved technologically to become more than good enough to serve most users’ digital needs over multiple years or until the device breaks.”

While Moskowitz is suspect of the iPhone’s future appeal, he does believe Apple has some opportunities to significantly grow in the coming years by investing in India and expanding its Services business, which includes Apple Music. He added that Apple’s growth could also come from appealing more to corporate customers and artificial intelligence. But there’s one problem: he doesn’t think those to make a dent in Apple’s business over the next year.

“We do not expect these potential ‘what’s next?’ opportunities to emerge as major needle movers over the next 12 months for Apple’s model,” wrote Moskowitz.