Wall Street says the $999 iPhone takes Apple’s ‘franchise to a whole new level’

An attendee checks out a new iPhone X during an Apple launch event in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 12, 2017.

Stephen Lam | Reuters
An attendee checks out a new iPhone X during an Apple launch event in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 12, 2017.

The most anticipated consumer technology product event in years lived up to the hype, at least according to Wall Street.

Analysts are gushing with optimism over the potential upgrade cycle from Apple’s new high-end $999 iPhone X and iPhone 8 models announced Tuesday.

“Apple took the iPhone franchise to a whole new level with the iPhone X, pushing the company deep into the ultra-luxury smartphone market with the highest priced iPhone in the company’s history,” Drexel Hamilton’s Brian White wrote in a note to clients Wednesday.

“We walked away even more encouraged by this new iPhone cycle, Apple’s future in AR [augmented reality] and the company’s ability to distance itself from its competitors.”

Apple shares closed down 0.4 percent after Tuesday’s iPhone product event as much of this enthusiasm may been priced into the stock. The shares have rallied 39 percent year to date through Tuesday versus the S&P 500’s 11.5 percent return. Apple’s stock was slightly lower in premarket trading Wednesday.

“This year’s event marked one of the most highly anticipated product announcements in recent years, and from a product perspective, the company did not disappoint,” RBC Capital Markets’ Amit Daryanani wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. “We think the new form factor and net new features/capabilities (wireless charging, AR enablement, 3-D sensing) added to the flagship device will drive accelerated device upgrades within AAPL’s install base combined with increased switching activity.”

Drexel Hamilton and RBC Capital Markets reiterated the firms’ buy and outperform ratings on Apple shares after the event. The research shops have $208 and $180 price targets for the technology giant’s shares.

The iPhone X’s launch date was the one fly in the ointment from the event, but one firm believes it will not be a big factor in the long run.

“While the later timing of the iPhone X is a slight disappointment, we believe it provides runway for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus to capture upgrades early in the cycle,” Morgan Stanley’s Kate Huberty wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. “It also sets up for a much stronger than seasonal March quarter, given it will be the first full quarter of iPhone X shipments.”

Huberty originally expected the high-end iPhone X model would be released in October versus the Nov. 3 release date Apple announced.

“Ultimately, we advise buying Apple shares on any weakness given the last two periods of meaningful iPhone growth acceleration (iPhone 4 in 2010-11 and iPhone 6 in 2014-15) produced elongated periods of AAPL share outperformance,” she added.

Despite the bullishness there were no major increases in price forecasts out of the group. Wall Street firms have a 12-month average price target of $175.49 for Apple shares, representing 9 percent upside from Tuesday’s close, according FactSet.

— CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this story.

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