Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone SE today (follow our live blog here starting at 1 p.m. Eastern), and analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch say the company’s supply chain has confirmed the existence of the updated 4-inch iPhone. They say data from Apple’s suppliers suggests that the company isn’t ordering very many for the launch.
Further, they think supply constraints will limit the dual camera that’s been rumored for the iPhone 7 to the high-end models.
Apple’s supply chain near its bottom
One of the big problems that has plagued Apple stock has been cuts in orders for the iPhone. Investors have not been happy with the repeated signs of weakness in demand for the iPhone 6s, but that’s expected to change this year with the iPhone 7 lineup. BAML analyst Wamsi Mohan and team think Apple’s supply chain may be close to bottoming out, describing the order cuts between December and February as “significant,” including cuts to orders for some components even after the Chinese New Year.
They add that the order cuts have “overshot to the downside” and that now suppliers are expecting a “modest rebound” in the second quarter from what they describe as “depressed” levels in the first quarter. The BAML team also said suppliers are preparing for the 4-inch iPhone SE and the newer iPad which is also expected to be unveiled today under either the iPad Pro name or the iPad Air 3 name.
They said volumes for the iPhone SE and the newer iPad “are expected to be relatively modest” for now and that the iPhone SE isn’t expected to have Apple’s Force Touch technology. They’ve raised their estimates for Apple’s March quarter to 50 million iPhones and for the June quarter to 44 million based on the new signs of stability in the supply chain.
iPhone 7 ramp expected by June
The BAML team expects orders for some iPhone 7 components to start ramping by late in the second quarter. They also expect the timing of the launch to be about the same as it has been in previous years with the big reveal in September and mass production starting in the September quarter after smaller volumes begin in the late part of the June quarter.
Because of supply constraints, they think the dual rear-facing camera to be limited to the “higher end version of the iPhone 7.” They don’t expect an iPhone with an OLED display until early next year, which they describe as a “likely high end model.”
Looking to the Apple Watch 2
Although some early rumors suggested that the Apple Watch 2 might be unveiled at today’s event, we now don’t expect to see it. The BAML team expect production on it to ramp over the summer and for it to be available this Fall. They believe it will be thinner with just one piece of glass, while the first model has two sheets.
Apple stock moved higher ahead of today’s event, climbing by as much as 0.68% to $106.65 per share.