The article was written by Gleb Zinkovskii, a Financial Analyst at I Know First.
“I think the artistry is in having an insight into what one sees around them. Generally putting things together in a way no one else has before and finding a way to express that to other people who don’t have that insight…”
– Steve Jobs, Smithsonian Institution Oral and Video Histories, April 20, 1995
- iOS 11.3 preview release – New AR experiences with ARKit 1.5, Health Records – collaboration of Apple with hospitals and clinics
- Apple opens first official store in Seoul, South Korea expanding its worldwide presence to 18 countries
- Apple introduced new product in an effort to stay competitive with Google Home and Amazon Echo – HomePod
- Q1 2018 results are released – all-time records from all perspectives
iOS 11.3 release preview: another small step forward for company – big user experience jump
Apple presented its flagship iPhone X device on September 12, 2017 which provided the hardware basis for iOS 11 and empowered it to bring incredible new user experiences like Augmented Reality (AR) and complex face recognition solution for unlocking device and animating Emojis in real-time. Since then the features of the iOS were multiply challenged by many industry experts and the public in respect of the value being brought to customers for the price of iPhone X. Although, real-time animated Emojis are actually a powerful and fun tools to sell the device to Apple fans, the true capabilities horizon of the hardware and software is clearly not utilized so far. The preview of the new iOS version brings new perspectives on future user experience and applications with the updated ARKit, enabling developers to create applications that support AR not just in horizontal but vertical planes. Although it may sound vague from first perspective, actually is an enormous jump into the world of interactive surfaces like walls, posters, paintings, ads, etc. As a result, the potential value of such technology arriving at your palm may result in completely different approach for targeted advertisement and entertainment.
Another highly anticipated by the public feature which was mentioned in the preview and had its own separate press release is Apple Health Records. “Our goal is to help consumers live a better day. We’ve worked closely with the health community to create an experience everyone has wanted for years — to view medical records easily and securely right on your iPhone,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s COO. “By empowering customers to see their overall health, we hope to help consumers better understand their health and help them lead healthier lives.” Some experts compare this functionality to Apple Pay or Siri with respect to the impact scale on our lifestyle and the way we do our routine and for sure Apple is the company which is capable of taking the lead in such initiative. Another story is for investors to estimate the impact of such technologies’ introduction onto Apple’s value and for sure it will buzz the investor community for some time. Also, investors should consider that the same way Apple Pay stimulated new evolutionary step in online cashless payments, the same way Apple Health Records may become an environment for both offline and online medical care services which has extremely wide market reach and where they will be able to unify around patient’s needs and deliver care in extremely time-efficient and affordable manner. As for the Apple’s investors it is not clear how it will drive the company’s value in short term, but it is to be said that so far technologies which Apple introduces take some time for public to absorb and realize their true potential but when it happens the value sometimes exceeds even most optimistic analyst’s expectations.
Based on the above and the fact that not all of the Apple devices support AR and functionality yet even if they have iOS 11 installed, the hype around the mentioned technologies is capable to significantly drive the demand for the latest devices (iPhone X and iPhone 8). The latest sales results for Q1 2018 (published on February 1, 2018) support this statement as the number of iPhone X units sold rose by 66% and corresponding 113% increase in revenue comparing to Q4 2017 contributing to the overall rise in company’s sales. Additionally, one should reasonably expect intensified demand for the actual services to be provided based on those technologies which will drive additional revenues both directly to Apple and indirectly through third-party developers.
Apple opens first official store in Seoul, South Korea expanding its worldwide presence to 18 countries
Everybody knows what an Apple store is. Everybody knows that Asian market is constantly seeking for new trends, technologies and products. Apple is not an exception and that’s why the first official apple store opened in Gangnam area in Seoul. Although the penetration to the South Korean market is a hard thing to do for a foreign company as the dominance there lies with Samsung and LG, the expansion to this market sends a clear message. “We’re thrilled to open a new home for our customers in the vibrant city of Seoul and we look forward to continuing to grow in Korea,” said Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of Retail. “Our stores are gathering places for the community where everyone is welcome to connect, learn and create.” As ambitious as it sounds, it literally shows strong intention of the company not just to sell its products, but also expand its Apple culture influence to this market being close by it Korean current and future fans. The concept of an official Apple store is also important from marketing and sales perspective, because the new products and services are always start to sell first at official stores rather than at distributors. Therefore, it will give Apple the required means to effectively compete with Samsung and LG and take its piece of cake from this table. This statement is completely in line with the sales statistics being recently published by Apple – the sales growth in Asia Pacific region (excluding Greater China and Japan) in Q1 2018 was 144% and 17% comparing it to Q4 and Q1 in 2017 respectively.
Share of smartphone models sold in South Korea during the month of July 2017, by model [Source: Statista]
Apple introduced new product in an effort to stay competitive with Google Home and Amazon Echo – HomePod
It has been more than 2 and 1 years, respectively, since the release date of Amazon Echo and Google Home. The success of both devices is sometimes questionable and depends on the geography where the associated services are available for both devices. The idea of a smart home and devices which actually assist you in managing your household became not just a buzz but a practical set of tasks to be done by them. However, if you have certain restrictions for services to be utilized by those robots you cannot guarantee the success for such environments among the general public worldwide. Apple did not get into this competition for a while and seems to learn the mistakes done by Amazon and google. As a result, the new product – HomePod – orders on which were opened on February 9, is positioned as “Breakthrough Wireless Speaker that Brings Audio Technologies Into Any Home for an Incredible Listening Experience”. If we chop this motto into pieces it may seem that the competition is not going to be with Amazon or Google, but with audio giants like Bose or JBL. However, in the context of the sales statistics for the home assistant devices and home and portable audio speakers it is clear that the last ones were true success stories and insanely profitable market worldwide. From investor perspective it also seems as a good idea for Apple to compete with this new product in audio industry which is close to the cornerstone products and services like Apple Music, iPod and iPhone. Apple definitely shows a nice strategic approach to this new product, although it does not forget about the Siri – that assistant which became part of the Apple fans’ lives and sometimes a subject for jokes. Official press release says: “With support for HomeKit, HomePod can control hundreds of home accessories or set scenes like, “Hey Siri, I’m home,” to control a number of different accessories at the same time.” It makes clear that the experience gained by the public so far shaped the demand for a specific home assistant functionality which is more of a control hub for already exiting devices scattered around your house, and it is more of a nice touch to have for a more desired primary need – set up a nice mood by turning up good musical vibes. It seems to be a nice entrance point to this market for Apple as a sovereign player and it seems a good move from strategic perspective which investors expect from the Apple management team.
Conclusion – Q1 2018 results released
Based on the press release of the results for the Q1 2018 one should be totally amazed by financials – revenue of $88.3 billion, an increase of 13 percent from the year-ago quarter and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $3.89, up 16 percent. However, if we look up closely to the summary data for the quarter we will see that the most contributing to the overall growth item from the products range is not the newest iPhone X, but “Other Products” section – 36% growth in Q1 2018 comparing to Q1 2017. At the same time we can see that although sequential revenue growth of 68% from Q4 2017 to Q1 2018 is significant it achieved by 113% growth produced by iPhone X and 70% growth produced by Other Products”. iPad and Mac products demonstrated insignificant changes in revenues ranging from -4% to 21% and from -5% to 18% for quarterly sequential and Year-year comparables. Such performance does not seem bad for general public as the market for tablets and laptops are not that dynamic nowadays, but from a strategic perspective it could become a worrying sign of the main revenue drivers’ convergence to just smartphones and accessories like Apple Watch. However, this worrying signs are smoothed out by the introduction of HomePod which may contribute significantly to the Apple environment value proposition to current and potential customers, but also by the fact that Apple became one of the biggest beneficiaries of the current US tax reform. The fact that Apple decided to repatriate extreme amount of cash from overseas which becomes available for reinvestment on US soil and, potentially, for dividends payout accompanied by the company’s stock buy-back program gives strong potential for further freedom to spend it on R&D and M&A activities. The best way to give sense of how much cash became available to Apple belongs to Luca Maestri, Apple CFO: “We have plenty of financial flexibility, of course” and from the published financial statements we can understand that it literally means almost $285 billion. In overall, Apple’s stock performance over Q1 2018 and the period until the press release of the financial statements was above industry benchmarks, but started dropping starting from the middle of January with a slight spike up around the date of the press release.
[Source: Yahoo Finance]
I Know First Forecast on Apple
As far as we have the release of the first quarter fiscal 2018 results of Apple at our disposal, I do believe that the company will continue to show increasing sales of the new iPhone X. However, there is a certain ambiguity around the other revenue drivers and the extent of dividends to be paid to the shareholders. As Tim Cook, Apple CEO mentioned at the annual shareholders meeting held on February 13, although the company has lots of available cash, but it is unlikely that all the amount will be spent in a form of special dividend. As far as it represents the strategic vision of the board on the activities of the company being aimed at investment into R&D and potentially M&A, one should not expect some quick win from the status of Apple shareholder. In my view, as of today the most of the value which shareholders needs to be expected within the long time horizon and we should expect the improvements due to conceptually new products, services and features being proposed as a result of the company’s investments. The I Know First forecast supports my opinion that in short term of 1 month the stock will be rather bullish than neutral with relatively significant predictability and is going to become even more bullish over 3 month and 1 year time with the signal and corresponding predictability increasing over those periods.
Past I Know First Forecast with Apple
In May 22nd, 2016 Motek Moyen, a Senior Financial Analyst at I Know First, published an article about Berkshire Hathaway investing $1 billion into Apple Inc. shares just afterwards of Carl Icahn exit from the number of Apple’s shareholders. As per the reports of Berkshire Hathaway at that time it increased its holdings in Apple and went long on it with 23.3% shares. Motek’s bullish endorsement for Apple was backed by the positive algorithmic forecasts from I Know First. The 1 month, 3-month and 12-month algorithmic forecasts for AAPL were all positive.
Current I Know First subscribers received this bullish forecast of AAPL on May 22 nd, 2016.
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Since then, in accordance with the above I Know First forecast Apple’s stock price gained more than 70% in 1 year and continues to grow further as shown on the below graph:
I Know First Algorithm Heatmap Explanation
The sign of the signal tells in which direction the asset price is expected to go (positive = to go up = Long, negative = to drop = Short position), the signal strength is related to the magnitude of the expected return and is used for ranking purposes of the investment opportunities.
Predictability is the actual fitness function being optimized every day, and can be simplified explained as the correlation based quality measure of the signal. This is a unique indicator of the I Know First algorithm. This allows users to separate and focus on the most predictable assets according to the algorithm. Ranging between -1 and 1, one should focus on predictability levels significantly above 0 in order to fill confident about/trust the signal.
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 Includes sales of Apple TV, Apple Watch, Beats products, iPod touch and Apple-branded and third-party accessories [Source: Apple Inc. Q1 2018 Unaudited Summary Data, Official Apple Inc. Press Release on February 1, 2018]