Does Apple Need to Improve the iPhone?

Carrier input on the iPhone at the Mobile World Congress did not leave BMO Capital analyst Keith Bachman too positive about the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) smartphone’s future unless big changes were made soon.

Bachman said in a research note to clients that he came away from the event a little more cautious on the iPhone maker than before. The analyst had conversations with carriers from Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as a distributor that serves the Middle East.

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“In aggregating the comments, people we spoke with mentioned that the iPhone 5 is a good device that gets interest, but is not materially different from the iPhone 4S,” the analyst wrote. “In particular, Samsung’s (SSNLF.PK) products, such as the Galaxy S3, seem to be generating much greater interest. Many thought that Apple needed a large screen size product.”

According to Bachman, Apple’s next move in the smartphone arena will have to get aggressive on both price and screen size. The company needed to move into the mid-price smartphone category, while introducing a separate larger-screen iPhone.

“We think Apple needs to and will do both,” he said, according to The Dividend Daily…

The analyst stuck to his previously made estimates of sales of 37.8 million iPhones in the March quarter and 34.5 million in the June quarter, calling the prediction “reasonable,” but adding there was more probability of getting a downside than upside. He also maintained predictions of sales of 18 million iPads in March and 19 million in the June.

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Bachman, who has an Outperform rating and $580 price target on Apple, added that a fresh dividend announcement from the company may come during or before the next earnings call. Apple closed at $430.47 on Friday, down 4.5 percent for the week.

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