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Now Apple must show what’s next after iPhone X

The iPhone X is likely to be a phenomenal success for Apple. But its success will not be driven by anything new that the new phone packs inside. Instead, its success will be based on the phone’s screen size. Essentially, iPhone X provides the same screen real-estate as an iPhone Plus, but with the sleeker form factor of the iPhone 7 or 8.

Apple has done a great job at changing the paradigm of our thinking about the iPhone. If you only care about making phone calls, then an iPhone 4 is good enough. Why pay for more? You probably don’t even need to upgrade your phone for years, as long as the battery keeps holding its charge. However, for most, the actual “phone” function is the least important of the iPhone.

From an earnings perspective, iPhone X will be a tremendous boost. It will increase the average selling price per unit by a few hundred dollars, which should help not just sales, but profit margins as well. This is actually healthy for both Apple and the entire iPhone ecosystem (including DRAM and solid state drive makers — for example, we still have a large position in Micron Technology). People were also postponing buying new iPhones while waiting for the iPhone X; thus, the number of units sold will probably exceed most optimistic expectations.

Then the question becomes, What is next? Higher-priced iPhones will also change the dynamics of the upgrade cycle. Apple is going to have a harder time convincing iFanatics to shell out $1,000-$1,200 every year (or even every two years). The upgrade cycle will likely be elongating to three or four years. Thus, any blow-out success of iPhone X in 2017 and early 2018 will be coming at the expense of future years. Even if you are a loyal Apple shareholder, you have to be prepared for this.

Absent a new category of products, Apple is turning into a fully ripe stock. Yes, it will look statistically cheap based on 2018 earnings, but that will not be the case if you look at 2019 or 2020 earnings. As all the excitement subsides, Apple stock will have to answer an extremely important question: What is next? After all, the value of any business is a lot more than the earnings generated next year, but far beyond that.

And one more thing…

I am not a journalist or reporter; I am an investor who thinks through writing. This and other investment articles are just my thinking at the point they were written. However, investment research is not static, it is fluid. New information comes our way and we continue to do research, which may lead us to tweak and modify assumptions and thus to change our minds.

We are long-term investors and often hold stocks for years, but as luck may or may not have it, by the time you read this article we may have already sold the stock. I may or may not write about this company ever again. Think of this and other articles as learning and thinking frameworks. But they are not investment recommendations. The bottom line is this. If this article piques your interest in the company I’ve mentioned, great. This should be the beginning, not the end, of your research.

Read this before you buy your next stock

Vitaliy Katsenelson

I am the CEO at IMA, which is anything but your average investment firm. (Why? Get our company brochure here, or simply visit our website).

In a brief moment of senility, Forbes magazine called me “the new Benjamin Graham.”

I’ve written two books on investing, which were published by John Wiley & Sons and have been translated into eight languages. (I’m working on a third - you can read a chapter from it, titled “The 6 Commandments of Value Investing” here).

And if you prefer listening, audio versions of my articles are published weekly at investor.fm.

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