It’s looking more and more like the iPhone 7 won’t be anything that will knock the socks off even the most loyal Apple fan, but despite that, most analysts continue to look to it as the next big catalyst. More than one firm has suggested that Apple doesn’t need any big new innovations to get people to buy the iPhone 7, and they’re probably right, to some extent.
However, the huge success of the iPhone 6 cycle highlights that big changes equal especially big sales.
A muted iPhone 7 cycle… but a “super” iPhone 8 cycle
Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha and team are in the camp expecting the iPhone 7 to have only modest improvements, such as more storage and a dual camera for the iPhone 7 Plus. Unlike some analysts who expect a great cycle this year even if there are only modest improvements to the device, they expect this year’s cycle to be “muted.” They’re assuming a 32-month replacement cycle on the iPhone rather than the 24 months Apple bulls are assuming.
Using this model, they say the company should still see its iPhone units grow with the iPhone 7 cycle, unlike the iPhone 6s when the first decline was noted. However, they describe the recovery s “muted” with a 4.2% year over year increase to 215 million for the iPhone 7 model year.
The Credit Suisse team believes that most of the big improvements will be moved out to next year’s iPhone model, which they refer to as the “iPhone 8” rather than “iPhone 7s” because they believe Apple is moving away from a tic-toc cycle with every other year being “S” models with minimal upgrades. Because they look for the next major upgrades to be delayed until the iPhone 8 next year, they’re expecting it to be a “super-cycle.”
What to expect in the iPhone 8
Among the major upgrades they expect for the iPhone 8 are an OLED screen, a full glass display, a lack of a physical Home button, improved Taptic Engine, better camera, and wireless charging. Garcha and team also expect the iPhone 8 to be rich in both features and specs. They add that even if Apple includes these features only in a Pro version of the iPhone, they should “drive an accelerated replacement cycle” while pulling in new users and improving the product mix, especially since the iPhone SE will likely have a negative impact on mix this year.
They’re expecting the 2018 calendar year to bring a 16.1% increase in iPhone units, which would amount to 250 million iPhones.
In case you’re wondering about their expectations for an OLED screen on the iPhone 8, they did some extra work in this area. We’ve been hearing rumors for years that the newest iPhone model would have one, so at some point, we start discounting the rumor. However, the CS team said Samsung’s OLED capacity will more than double in 2018 from where it is now.
Additionally, they believe the $4 billion in off-balance-sheet commitments that Apple added in the last quarter was for Samsung to ramp its OLED production by next year. They also say that some of the company’s biggest suppliers, including LG and Foxconn, have announced some big investments into equipment for manufacturing displays.
iPhone SE doing well
The CS team also reports that the iPhone SE is doing pretty well so far, probably better than Apple expected before it launched the less expensive phone. They said it has enabled the company to gain market share within the $300 to $500 phone market this year.
Where will Apple stock go from here?
As for where Apple stock is heading next, Garcha and team have a 12-month price target of $116 per share, assuming a “muted” iPhone 7 cycle, 32-month replacement cycle in 2017, and a modest improvement in iPhone units. Their 24-month target is $143 per share, based on an iPhone 8 “super-cycle, 30-month replacement cycle in 2017, 150 million gross adds, and material improvement in iPhone unit recovery.