You can forget yesterday’s record shattering numbers Apple CEO, Tim Cook, proudly revealed for Apple’s 3rd quarter of 2015. Ignore the fact that iPhone sales grew 35% year-over-year, or that Apple now has over $200 billion in cash for the first time in history. This is all irrelevant. None of this matters. Why? Because analysts guessed that Apple would sell between 50 - 55 million iPhones in the quarter, when in reality Apple only sold a record breaking 47.53 million iPhones. Apple did not achieve the conjured up sales figures the “experts” spewed forth, and therefore the result was Apple’s stock price must be punished. No offense to the political naive who do not understand history, but in the investment world, this makes about as much sense as, say, cutting a nuclear deal with Iran trusting they will do the right thing. The sad reality is, this vapid illogic is how the stock market largely operates each and every day. Companies stocks rise when they beat the expert guesstimates. Stocks prices fall when companies do not meet the expert expectations. It does not matter how the company actually preformed. It is all about the experts guessing game. Reason and logic need not apply.
Financial reports and comments on them are one thing, but getting those little morsels of coded information from Tim Cook or Luca Maestri are quite another. Today at 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time, Apple will be holding their Q3 2015 financial conference call with a host of financial analysts and investment researchers. Apple's financial statement, released at roughly 1:10 p.m. Pacific, should be fairly pedestrian. Financial analysts are anticipating 50-55 million iPhones sold, earnings at the higher end of Apple’s revenue guidance of $48 billion, all while keeping a keen eye for any Apple Watch sales information. But beyond the expected is where questions from the likes of Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster or UBS’s Steve Milunovich come forth precious nuggets of Apple’s future.
There are three major areas of commentary I'm looking for during the Q3 call. The first is HomeKit. It was a no-show at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June. The likely reason for the omission was due to the second area of interest, Apple TV. Both topics go hand-in-hand, as it is highly rumored that the next generation Apple TV will be, amongst other things, Apple’s home automation hub, requiring HomeKit specific tools. Cook will be asked about Apple TV. The question is, will he deliver any hints as to what may be coming, or how current Apple TV sales have been since the $30 price drop earlier in the year (now only $69)?
With the launch of Apple Watch, a subtle move was made by Apple that may usher in massive change for the company and its next generation iPhone. Apple Watch contains an OLED display, the first time Apple has used such type of display technology on any of their devices. Until Apple Watch, Apple had loyally stuck to LED backlit LCD panels for iPods, iPads and iPhones, but Apple Watch ushered in an OLED display for a variety of reasons. OLED displays are thinner than LCDs, can draw less power, have flexible options, and are more visible in direct sunlight due to their inherent high contrast ratio (the blacks simply do not wash out).
Financially, Apple is “The iPhone Company”. During Apple’s 2Q15, iPhone accounted for over 80% of the company’s profits. iPhone is the vital to the continued success of Apple, and changing any technology within the world’s most popular smartphone is a risk that could bolster its appeal — or completely derail the device. Changing from LED to OLED could represent such a risk, so should iPhone 7 make the jump to OLED?
Apple Watch is likely to be a huge success. By any measure, it is also the most successful smartwatch in history, and it has only just started shipping. The tech industry is ablaze with pushing wearable technologies, whether we seemingly want them or not. Whether you are an Apple lover or Android devotee, wearables are going to be everywhere, but perhaps the question should be, why?
From a strategic standpoint, Google and Apple are racing to protect their smartphone sales, by adding devices that build an ecosystem around their phones. Apple Watch and Android Wear quickly strengthen a nearly inescapable ecosystem built around the smartphone. Both companies wearable devices are heavily dependent on their own supported smartphones. Once a watch is purchased, the odds of people switching to another operating system of smartphone becomes very, very low. For Apple and Google, making their smartphones the mobile digital hub is key for long-term success.
The phablet is all the rage. Half smartphone – half tablet, Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus is on fire. According to Carolina Milanesi, of Kantarworldpanel, iPhone 6 Plus gobbled up 44% of the worldwide phablet market during the first quarter of 2015. China is largely responsible for the overall iPhone 6 Plus consumption, but the U.S. and Europe are also playing an important role. Who is buying all these quasi-tablet/smartphone Pluses? Women.
Cultural differences aside, universally women carry purses, and generally speaking, men do not. Additionally, more men are in the workforce, and that makes a difference in device choice. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 69.7% of men are in the workforce, while 57.2% of women are in the labor market. Businessmen do not carry purses, rather, they slip their smartphones into a slacks or jacket pocket. Women, even those in the white collar labor force, often carry business-like purses. Women working retail or working-for-the-family Mom’s carry purses as well. If you have not caught on yet, a large display smartphone works well for purses, not so much for business suites, slacks or jeans.
How does the average Joe, or perhaps even the average Hollywood actor, feel about Brad Pitt and Katie Perry getting Apple Watches, when they aren’t even available to walk in and purchase at Apple retail stores? Will Timothy Robbins let lose some anger because his buddy Morgan Freeman was given an Apple Watch, but he wasn’t? Apple feels terrible they cannot meet demand for the average citizen, but somehow they managed to find enough watches to gift them to high-end fashion designers, rappers and actors. So in consolation you should simply enjoy watching Beyoncé wearing her Apple Watch while can’t you have one.
The problem? This is an elitist mentality. These people are a special class of citizen, they are more important than you or me. And while this is a message Apple is not intending to communicate, after talking with colleagues and friends, it certainly is the message being communicated.
The amazing Apple Watch was once available to own starting April 24, 2015. Now the watch is only shipping to customers who have pre-ordered the device on April 10th. Yesterday Apple removed their 04.24.2015 date stamp on the Apple Watch’s home page, replacing it with "The Watch is coming." According to The Telegraph, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail and Online sales, Angela Ahrendt, sent out a letter to Apple retail employees explaining the watch will not be available until June.
Apple Watch has only been available for pre-order and by-appointment-only trial for less than a week, and just about everything the watch can – or cannot do – has been revealed in hundreds of reviews. What I discovered yesterday during my try-on appointment was that the Apple Watch experience was vastly different compared to any other time I’ve stepped into an Apple retail store to check out a new product.
April 10, 2015, Apple Store Pioneer Place, Portland, OR, 8:15 AM. Most all Apple retail locations state-side open at 10 AM, and at least in Portland, OR, no lines exist – yet. One lone guy was pacing the front doors, wanting to get a look at Apple Watch, but if he tried to use Apple’s Concierge system after 12:00 AM last night, he was out of luck at least in this region. Many were unsuccessful in using Apple’s Store app to schedule an Apple Watch appointment, as it appears Apple’s system was apparently overloaded.
If you think massive lines will accompany the Apple Watch launch tomorrow, you may be in for a shock. Apple is deploying a new strategy in an attempt to eliminate long waits and roped off lines. The goal is to avoid sticking would-be buyers in lawn chairs and tents for hours or days on end. Apple's new retail rollout, spearheaded by Angela Ahrendts, Apple's VP of Retail and Online Sales, may help reduce lines, but try as she may, odds are high that consumers will still be waiting in some form of line tomorrow and on through the weekend.
The first change to Apple's line-elimination-strategy, is to soft launch Apple Watch. While the Apple Watch is available to try on and explore tomorrow, it is only available for pre-order, and will be available to purchase and pickup at Apple retail locations April 24. For the "gotta have it now" crowd, seeing it without being able to walk out of the store with the Apple Watch in-hand may delay their impulse shopping, spreading out that buying contingency over a few weeks time.