Apple Recap: Price Target Shocker, Two iPads in Two Months, and An iPhone for Growing Markets

On Monday: The Battle for the Mobile Crown, The Ecosystem is Strong as Ever, Mixed Bag of Predictions

This morning, in what has to be a big confidence boost for both investors and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), a study reported that iOS was now the majority smartphone platform in the U.S. for the first time ever. The Apple mobile platform brought in 53.3 percent of the share for the four-month period ending November 25, according to data from the Kantar Worldpanel, up from 35.8 percent last year. And the iPhone maker grabbed some of the market from Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, whose share over the same period fell to 41.9 percent from 52.8 percent… (Read more).

In some more good news, Apple announced that its App Store had now crossed 40 billion total downloads, with almost half of those coming last year. The numbers for December were also impressive, as the month saw a record two billion downloads. The company’s App Store is known to have a big edge on the Google Play store when it comes to monetization, and it appears the ecosystem is gaining strength. Apple also said it now had 775,000 applications for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, with more than 300,000 of those native to the iPad… (Read more)

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Barclays Capital analyst Ben Reitzes raised his sales estimates for Apple’s just-ended first fiscal quarter, but cut his full-year assessment because of several negative factors. Reitzes’ estimates for the December quarter are now $54 billion in revenue and $13.38 in earnings per share, up from previous predictions of $52.4 billion in revenue and EPS of $13. He is modeling the company to have sold 47 million iPhones last quarter, up from a prior estimate of 43.5 million. However, the analyst’s full-year expectations are down on worries of a lowered average selling price for the iPhone, and iPad sales being cannibalized by the lower-priced iPad mini… (Read more)

On Tuesday: A Look at Apple’s Display Future, An iPhone for Growing Markets, Putting China on the Priority List

Topeka Capital analyst Brian White Sharp has said it’s inevitable for Apple to start using Sharp’s new IGZO technology, which was showed off by the display manufacturer at the Consumer Electronics Show. Sharp said the advanced displays had twice the resolution of a conventional LCD screen with up to 90 percent power savings. White said Apple would be the “prime candidate” to adopt IGZO for its mobile devices as it would help it compete more strongly with Samsung (SSNLF.PK) as well as reduce its reliance on current screen supplier LG Display (NYSE:LPL). (Read more)

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek had suggested last month that Apple was contemplating creating a low-cost iPhone with scaled-down features for cost-conscious markets. According to a report in DigiTimes on Tuesday, the company may go ahead and launch such a device in the second half of this year. The rumors of Apple launching a cheaper version of its smartphone have existed for a while, but the idea that the company was reluctant to work with lowered margins was shot down last year with the launch of the iPad mini. According to DigiTimes, supply chain sources indicated that Apple was working on manufacturing the cheaper iPhone with Qualcomm’s (NASDAQ:QCOM) latest Snapdragon chipsets. (Read more)

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Apple chief executive Tim Cook is back in China for his second visit in less than 10 months and reportedly met with the country’s head of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Miao Wei. China has grown rapidly to become one of Apple’s most significant markets, but it is also an area that needs nurturing to grow further. Apple opened three new retail stores in mainland China last year to bring its total to eight and currently has wireless partnerships with China Telecom (NYSE:CHA) and China Unicom (NYSE:CHU), but is yet to agree on a deal with the largest provider in the country, China Mobile (NYSE:CHL). Could this visit bring that? (Read more)

On Wednesday: Cheaper iPhone Guessing Game is On, T-Mobile Gets in on the Party, iPad Leads the Tablet Super Charge

The buzz about Apple’s apparent plans to release a low-cost iPhone for emerging markets later this year is getting stronger, but what features will this device have? According to The Wall Street Journal, instead of a metallic exterior, Apple is likely to use a polycarbonate plastic casing. It may also use parts from older iPhone models instead of expensive and updated components of its latest device. You can read more here. But that wasn’t all the talk about the rumored device on Wednesday, with several analysts offering their opinion as well. According to Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster, the device could provide Apple’s stock the product catalyst it has lacked thus far heading into 2013. (Read more)

T-Mobile is ready to get in on the iPhone fun, too, after confirming that it will start officially selling the Apple smartphone in about three to four months. The Deutsche Telekom unit said that despite not being an official Apple partner carrier yet, it had almost 2 million iPhones operating on its network, with more than 100,000 new activations coming every month. The company expects to provide a firmer competition to rivals AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) soon. (Read more)

The iPad also got some news space after a report said that with the Apple device leading the way, shipments of tablets are set to outpace global notebook sales this year. According to latest data from NPD DisplaySearch, tablets will reach shipments of 240 million units this year, while only about 207 million notebooks will get shipped. Just six months ago, DisplaySearch had predicted that it would take until 2016 for tablets to surpass notebook shipments, but the market appears to have changed dramatically since then. It would have grown 64 percent year-over-year at the end of 2013, according to these figures. North America, with a 35 percent share of shipments and 85 million total units, will remain the largest market for another year. (Read more)

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On Thursday: Brokering a China Deal, A Dampener for Rumors, Price Target Shocker

The long-awaited deal between Apple and China Mobile may finally be close after Cook and the wireless provider’s chairman, Xi Guohua, discussed cooperation during a meeting in Beijing. China is one of Apple’s most important markets and holds a huge potential for growth. But China Mobile, with its 707 million subscribers and 64 percent of the country’s domestic mobile phone market, is critical to those growth plans. The two companies have tried in the past to come to an agreement, but failed either because of technical incompatibility issues or those related to shipment commitment and handset subsidy… (Read more)

Apple was not interested in making cheap products, marketing chief Phil Schiller has said in an interview that may be spilling cold water on expectations that the company would launch a low-cost iPhone targeted at emerging markets. Schiller said that while cheaper smartphones were the most successful devices in the Chinese market, Apple did not need to follow the same route. Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs, of course, famously criticized smaller-sized tablets before the company went on to launch the iPad mini last October, so it remains to be seen if Schiller’s words ring true… (Read more)

In a development likely to greatly hurt shareholder sentiment, well-known Apple bull Gene Munster cut his price target for the company’s stock. The Piper Jaffray analyst said slightly less optimistic expectations vis-à-vis the company’s profit margins had led to his decision of adjusting the target from $910 to $875 per share. According to Munster, several analysts previously highly bullish toward Apple were beginning to become a little more conservative in their predictions, which could help reduce the enormous expectations Apple has to deal with quarter after quarter. Going into what is likely an important year, the tempered sentiment may in fact help the company, he said… (Read more)

On Friday: Two iPads in Two Months, Tim Cook’s Love Song, The iPhone’s Gifts

Apple is headed to a twice-a-year product refresh cycle that will result in the company releasing an updated full-sized iPad and the second-generation iPad mini in March, Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets said. White said in a research note that his checks with industry sources at the Consumer Electronics Show had suggested that two iPad versions were on their way to the market barely five months after the tablets were last updated in October. The new 9.7-inch iPad will be lighter and thinner than the fourth-generation model, according to White, while the iPad mini’s processor will receive an upgrade. (Read more)

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Cook told China’s government news agency Xinhua that the country was on its way to becoming the iPhone maker’s biggest market. “China is currently our second largest market. I believe it will become our first. I believe strongly that it will,” Cook reportedly said. He added that Apple intended to start “many more” outlets in China over the next several years to add to its current total of 11 stores in mainland China and Hong Kong. The Apple executive also answered questions about wages and other labor issues at manufacturing partner Foxconn. (Read more)

The iPhone 5 was the bestselling smartphone in the U.S. market in the December quarter and gave Apple’s product margins over the three-month period a significant boost, Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley said. The analyst added that the Apple smartphone’s demand-supply balance had finally been reached. Because of the high sales of what is essentially Apple’s highest-margin product, Walkley felt that the company’s guidance for that particular statistic for the quarter was too conservative.  (Read more)

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