Wells Fargo: Carriers Now Control iPhone Sales

| Apple Stock Watch

Apple reported record revenue during its first fiscal quarter for 2014 and 51 million iPhones sold, but Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um is saying demand for the company's smartphone is light since he was expecting 54.8 million units sold. The reason behind lower than expected iPhone sales was lighter demand driven in part by cell service providers getting strict about 24 month smartphone upgrade cycles.

Carriers taking control from Apple means lower iPhone sales are comingCarriers taking control from Apple means lower iPhone sales are coming

"iPhone units implied from revenue guidance is roughly 5 million below our prior estimate, leaving questions about end demand since there were no supply issues," Mr. Um said. "Operators becoming more strict to 24 month upgrade cycles may reflect more signs of the balance of power shift back to operators."

He added, "[Apple's] commentary that operators in the US changed upgrade policies to be stricter to the 24 month period reinforces our view that there are signs the balance of power may be starting to shift back to operators."

Along with 51 million iPhones sold during the first fiscal quarter, Apple reported US$57.6 billion in revenue with $13.1 billion in profits. The company sold 26 million iPads, and 4.8 million Macs.

iPhone sales were up year over year, as were iPad and Mac sales.

Second quarter guidance came in below Wall Street expectation of $46.1 billion in revenue, and Mr. Um's agressive $46.9 billion. Apple said it expects to bring in between $42 billion and $44 billion. Apple is projecting second quarter gross margins between 37 percent and 38 percent, which is in line with Mr. Um's 38.2 percent estimate and Wall Street's 37.3 percent.

While he expects Apple's iBeacon technology to grown in 2014, for the iPhone 6 and rumored iWatch to hit store shelves, and for the ongoing stock buyback program to help boost the company's value, Mr. Um sees some downside this year. Gross margins will take a hit when the iPhone 6 launches later this year, plus market cap opportunities are limited in some of the company's market segments, and the shift of power from Apple to cell service providers will hamper iPhone sales.

Mr. Um is maintaining his "Market Perform" rating for Apple's stock, but lowering his 12 month valuation from $536 to $581 down to $505 to $575. Apple is currently trading in the pre-market at $510.70, down 39.80 (7.23%) after closing on Monday at $550.50.

[Some image elements courtesy Shutterstock]

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iPhone sales are up year over year, but analysts are worried about those numbers dipping. With cell service providers getting stricter on 24 month upgrade cycles, it's a real possibility that fewer current iPhone owners will upgrade to the latest model as often, and that could have a real impact on quarterly sales.



Perhaps he needs to understand what is meant by “power” when talking about the iPhone. Users have never been in control of their contracts, period. Forcing them to adhere to a more strict 24 month upgrade cycle, has nothing to do with the iPhone or Apple. The “power” Apple gains over the carriers, is that they NEED the iPhone to compete, it’s that simple.

And this person forget that there was in fact a supply issue with the iPhone 5s for the first half of the quarter?


“No supply issues?” What did you spend on analysis, Maynar dUm, 30 seconds?  First, you wildly over speculated on iPhone sales numbers, going way beyond Apple’s forecast, and then, after the launch, ignore continuing news of delays on 5s deliveries. And you missed the carriers’ policy on early upgrades. Then your knee jerk reaction to AAPL’s after-market trading.

I’m sure glad you have no input on any of my investments.

Constable Odo

Apple appears to be the only profitable tech company causing shareholders to lose money while the rest of the market, even far weaker companies, are giving returns to shareholders.  Tim Cook doesn’t seem to be the least bit concerned about that and thinks everything is just peachy-dandy with Apple.


If carriers are tightening the rules on upgrades, shouldn’t that affect Android OEMs too?

Rogifan 1

Hmm…I don’t buy this.  I just converted to the AT&T Next program and I’m able to upgrade to a new phone every 12 months. And even if that is true it’s not necessarily causing less iPhone sales, it’s just shifting the sales to different quarters.


Samsung just reported their mobile division’s profits were down 18% vs the previous quarter, based mainly on competition from Apple, and while I can’t find any stories (yet?) about carrier contracts having an effect on other makers, there are stories out there about ALL of the manufacturers having a harder time finding places to grow, outside of China.

As for the 12-month continuous contracts, there’s evidence they haven’t had much buy-in from customers, and one carrier has already dropped their implementation of that plan.


I didn’t upgrade for one reason, I already have two 64GB iPhones, I’m not going to buy another 64GB, I’ll wait for the 128GB model. But I also buy mine unlocked from Apple.

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