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Apple Inc.'s New iPhones Have Arrived, Now What? 4 Investing Experts Respond

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After months of speculation, the smoke has cleared and we are left with the colorful iPhone 5C and the high-end, fingerprint-scanning 5S.

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Apple May Be Missing an Opportunity Down the Food Chain
By Justin Sharon

Do you remember the 21st night of September?
Love was changing the mind of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away.


Not only did that siren song of the '70s from Earth, Wind & Fire make an apparently eerily clairvoyant mention of cloud computing, the date referenced in the ditty is a dagger to the heart of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) investors everywhere. September 21 last year was indeed when the stock hit an all-time high of $705.07, with any pretenders to Apple's crown conspicuously absent. That its shares closed at a mere $494.64 following Tuesday's much-trumpeted iPhone announcement, even as the S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) has soared in the interim 12 months, is indicative of how far the firm has fallen from favor.

Can these new offerings give the company back its mojo in the face of fierce competition from Samsung's (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) bigger-sized screens and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system? Certainly, there are some compelling features. The iPhone 5S boasts a better battery life, vastly improved flash camera, and more powerful 64-bit processor. Above all, its embedded fingerprint scanner is generating buzz, and noted bull Brian White, Cantor Fitzgerald's analyst who last week assigned a $777 price objective on the equity, promptly told CNBC that this more expensive offering will be a "big hit."

Yet an equally big opportunity may have been missed further down the food chain with the lower-end 5C. "Think different" is spectacularly bad English, but it has historically been a money-making mantra for Apple. Here, however, one is struck by how little the phone's cost deviates from prior pricing strategies. Absent a considerable carrier subsidy, which Apple has always tended to shun, the device remains out of reach for untold millions of potential customers in China and India, where the likes of Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) already enjoy a considerable head start. The ongoing absence of a larger screen only adds to the sense of disappointment.

The question of "WWJD?" (What Would Jobs Do?) has been one of Silicon Valley's most popular parlor games this week. Apple's legendary CEO famously favored quality over quantity, so a plethora of plastic products, however colorful (see image), likely wouldn't have been to his taste. He was, however, also an arch pragmatist not above accepting a financial lifeline from lifelong nemesis Bill Gates, so trying to decipher the intentions of an always-mercurial man is ultimately a fool's errand.

Oh, "One more thing," as Steve so liked to say. Shares tumbled after Tuesday's announcement, and opened sharply lower today after a trio of equity analysts rushed to reduce their ratings. Yet Beijing's year of the snake may yet have a twist in the tale. Reports indicate that an agreement with China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) is imminent. Apple has always laughed in the face of those who make snap judgments, so how this story ends is still untold.

Justin Sharon authors Minyanville's stock upgrades and downgrades articles every morning. He has extensive experience on Wall Street, most recently at the Private Client unit of Merrill Lynch. A 12-year spell in its research department encompassed the eras of Blodget, boom, bust, and Bank of America. Read more of his work for Minyanville, here.


Apple Is Still Apple
By André Mouton

I liked Apple's presentation, even if the market didn't. It was a relief to see the unlocked iPhone 5C priced at $549, where it won't cannibalize the high-end model. This won't do much to help Apple's market share, but I'd rather see healthy margins than a race to commoditize. Apple is still Apple -- and that's a good thing.

The feature upgrades on the iPhone 5S are a mixed bag. The 64-bit processor seems like overkill for a 4-inch handset, although it bodes well for the iPad. The camera improvements are nice, but they would have benefited from an increase in disk space. The fingerprint scanner could be a big deal if it cuts down on theft, or gives a boost to personalized services like mobile payment (although this wasn't mentioned in the presentation). All in all, it wasn't an earthshaking update, but this reflects a maturing industry more than any lack of innovation from Apple. The iPhone is still best in breed, and I would expect solid sales of the new model -- though perhaps not much growth.

If I have a complaint, it's Apple's decision to continue selling the iPhone 4S. The choice of plastic for the 5C is understandable, but it still feels like a downgrade. Consumers may choose to save $100 and go with the 2011 model; it offers brushed metal and a more professional look. Regardless, there's an aesthetic awkwardness to the new lineup that's a little unusual to see coming out of Cupertino.

André Mouton is an independent investor who cut his teeth in the dot-com crash and chewed his lip in the financial crisis. He is a former writer for Offbeat Magazine in New Orleans and a touring (but not itinerant) musician, who now lives in New York. Read more of his work for Minyanville here.


Follow Josh Wolonick on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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