Overall Quarter Metrics
I expect iPad and iPhone to represent nearly 70% of Apple’s quarterly revenue. Remarkable.
Apple’s margin in 2011 has ranged from 38.5% to 41.7%. Management explained the 41.7% margin experienced in 3Q11 included some one-time warranty benefits and guidance of 38% for 4Q11 is primarily driven by the product mix. I don’t buy it. I don’t see many reasons for Apple’s margin to set a new low for 2011 in 4Q due to more iPhones (mostly iPhone 4 and 3GS) and iPads being sold. I expect attractive component pricing trends will offset any modest impact from back-to-school promotions (Macs and certain iPods are discounted). Timing issues surrounding the next iPhone may very well push margin pressure out to 1Q12. I would expect more bullish estimates to have GM closer to 41.5%.
I expect Apple to report 82% yoy earnings growth. While 82% growth is down from 122% yoy growth seen in 3Q11, I would not make much of this decline. Most of the difference is related to the ramp up in iPhone unit sales in 2010.
Product Unit Sales and Commentary
I expect MacBook Air and Mac mini updates to contribute to another solid Mac quarter. Apple will continue to take market share from Windows (early stages of 5-10+ year trend). As the PC market struggles to grow (thanks in part to the proliferation of smartphones and iPad), I view Mac growth greater than a range of 10%-15% as very respectable.
With iPad supply/demand still out of balance in a number of countries, I expect Apple to continue to expand the iPad channel during the quarter. While it remains to be seen if back-to-school purchases will include iPad, I don’t see many hiccups to stellar iPad demand during 4Q. Rumors of a possible iPad Pro have been very sporadic and I don’t expect such rumors to impact mainstream consumer purchasing habits. As seen with 3Q iPad growth of 183%, Apple has expanded iPad production nicely and is capable of greater than 100% year-over-year unit shipment growth.
I expect strong iPod touch sales to be offset by the continued decline in Apple’s other iPod models. Going by historical trends, Apple will refresh the iPod line up near the end of 4Q11, possibly at the same time as the expected iPhone refresh. I would not necessarily expect a large move in iPod shipments one way or another because of this refresh event, unless Apple moves forward with a plan for a low cost iPhone that includes changes to the iPod touch.
I expect Apple to unveil the new iPhone in September. Traditionally, I would include a significant supply drawdown of the old iPhone model, followed by a slow ramp up of the new iPhone model to go along with an iPhone refresh, but last quarter’s amazing iPhone sales lead me to believe Apple will continue to post sequential quarterly iPhone unit growth. I expect Apple will continue to sell iPhone 4 (and possibly iPhone 3GS) into 2012, therefore I am not expecting a significant drawdown in iPhone shipments in the weeks leading up to the iPhone refresh as iPhone 4 roll-out continues to new carriers and countries. Additionally, I would expect pent-up iPhone (4s or 5) demand will continue to grow during the quarter. Similar to the iPad 2 supply debacle, I expect the next iPhone to experience the same craziness and supply shortages in its first few months of sale, which will only help Apple’s 1Q12 iPhone numbers.
Similar to other sell-side analysts, I will most likely be revisiting my estimates following the end of the quarter. At this point, I would attribute any significant differences to my EPS estimate to differences in iPhone unit shipments. Questions can be addressed to me through twitter.