Apple is widely expected to unveil a new 4-inch iPhone, a new 9.7-inch iPad, new Apple Watch bands and some software updates at an event Monday at its Cupertino, California, headquarters.
The new, smaller phone — likely called the iPhone 5SE — is expected to be the headline release of the event.
Monday’s affair is smaller in scale than most of the company’s product launches, and analysts consider it secondary to a much bigger debut expected later in the year.
“We expect the March event to be largely incremental as the bigger announcements, particularly the redesigned iPhone 7, are expected to come in the September event,” said Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.
The phone likely to be introduced Monday will replace the iPhone 5S and feature a similar look to the 6 and 6S models, with many of the same components as the 6S, said Munster. He has a “buy” rating on the stock and a $172 price target. This will be the first time Apple has released an iPhone on two separate occasions in the same year.
The 5SE will likely have metal casing, multiple colors, a 12-megapixel camera, A9 processor, Apple Pay support and Touch ID, said analysts.
RBC Capital Markets analyst Amit Daryanani said he expects the 5SE to have a modest financial impact of 2 to 4 percent this fiscal year, with $5.5 billion in sales out of a total of $230 billion in fiscal 2016.
The iPhone 5se
Daryanani estimates that there are 35 million iPhones in the marketplace with 4-inch displays that are at least 3 years old. Many of these iPhone users may simply prefer a smaller screen size, so with the 5SE Apple is giving them a new option, versus risking that they switch to Android, he said. Daryanani has an “outperform” rating on the stock and a $130 price target.
Investor sentiment is split around the 5SE, said analysts.
Rosenblatt Securities analyst Jun Zhang believes that investors are not excited about this new iPhone. “We are also bearish on iPhone 5SE model,” he said.
Comparable pricing means targeted users will not have enough incentive to buy the iPhone 5SE instead of iPhone 6, he said. Zhang expects Apple to produce 15 million iPhone 5SEs this year.
On the other hand, Nomura analyst Jeffrey Kvaal believes the iPhone 5SE has attracted disproportionate attention from investors. iPhone SE, among other products, may prove to be a mild positive but not a major inflection point, Kvaal said.
He has a “buy” rating on the stock and $135 price target.
Daryanani expects the event to be an incrementally positive catalyst for Apple.
“We think the replacement cycle for iPhones has stretched to 27 months versus 23 months (two years ago),” said Daryanani. “Strategies like iPhone upgrade program and iPhone 5SE are levers to shrink the replacement cycle and make the product more accessible to the price-conscious segment of the marketplace.”
Expectations on pricing vary widely. Zhang projects the 5SE to be priced at $350, Munster expects pricing to start at $450, Kvaal believes the new device will cost between $400 and $500, and Daryanani speculates that it may be as high as $549.
“We anticipate that the price of the iPhone 5SE will be similar to second-hand iPhone 6S in the large emerging markets,” said Kvaal.
Analysts agree that the new iPhone is likely aimed at emerging markets.
“Overall, we expect the new device may result in some incremental sales and possibly cannibalize some iPhone 6 (midtier) sales, but mostly just replace the current low-end unit sales,” said Munster.
“As a result, we do not expect the smaller device to result in meaningful changes to our thinking of a 3 percent year-over-year decline in iPhone sales for calendar year 2016,” he said.
The 9.7 inch iPad
The new iPad is expected to incorporate some of the features of the iPad Pro, including a Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil stylus compatibility as well as updated core components, said analysts. Those updated internal components are likely to include the processor, camera, speakers and battery.
The iPad accounts for just 10 percent of total sales, so it’s far less important than the iPhone, said Daryanani. That said, there is the potential that Apple can expand its share in the enterprise, especially with its IBM and Cisco partnerships, he said.
Munster expects iPad sales to decline 14 percent in calendar 2016.
The Apple Watch
The message on Apple’s invitation — “Let us loop you in” — may be a tip toward new Apple Watch bands, said Munster. The company is not expected to unveil any updates to the device itself, as many analysts had previously expected. Instead, Apple will likely show off new band colors and styles.
Of course, the Apple Watch is still a very small part of the company’s business. Daryanani expects Apple to sell 10 million Apple Watches in calendar 2016. Those sales will account for some $4 billion in sales, around 2 percent of Apple’s total sales revenue.
The Monday product event takes place the day before Apple and FBI lawyers are set to meet in a Riverside, California, courthouse. The Tuesday hearing is just the latest face off in the legal fight over the law enforcement agency’s demands that the company assist in unlocking the iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino, California, terror attack.
On Thursday, Apple’s stock closed at $105.80 a share, giving the world’s biggest tech company a market capitalization of $587.6 billion. The shares were up slightly late morning Friday.
Apple declined to comment for this story.
— CNBC’s Josh Lipton contributed to this report.