No iPhone 5? What does it mean for Apple?

Instead of an iPhone 5, Apple announced an updated iPhone 4S. A roundtable of Motley Fool analysts discuss the latest and all things Apple.

a woman

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) "Let's Talk iPhone" event has come and gone.

And the iPhone 5 didn't come with it.

Instead, Apple announced an updated iPhone 4S. The external look of the phone is largely the same as an iPhone 4. Improvements come in two main ways:

  • The innards: Apple spent quite a bit of time discussing internal improvements. The camera gets an upgrade to 8 megapixels and further improvements around the surrounding camera technology. Apple spent a whole eight minutes discussing the camera alone. Also seeing a key upgrade is the processor. Apple will be using the same A5 processor that's used in the iPad 2, which should promise both significantly improved performance and better battery life.
  • The software: iOS featured several improvements, though most were known before today's event. The biggest upgrade here was Apple's integration of Siri — a company it bought last year — to create a voice-based artificial intelligence system.

Why all the fuss over a new iPhone. Simply put, because the iPhone is Apple:

Apple has moved beyond being the creator of the iPod or the "Mac maker," it's now something bigger. Combined, iOS devices drive over 70% of the company's sales and — considering the iPhone's outsized profit margins — an even greater percentage of its profits.

To get a view into what today's iPhone launch means and whether Apple's still a buy, we asked a team of Foolish analysts for their opinion.

Evan Niu: I have to say I'm somewhat disappointed with "just" an iPhone 4S. Apple has always had the tough act of trying to balance its penchant for secrecy with the heightened expectations that go along with it. Sometimes those lofty expectations end up letting people down, like today. Apple did this before in 2009 when it just spec bumped the iPhone 3G to 3GS and no one seemed to mind back then. People were expecting a redesigned iPhone 5 today, and only coming out with a 4S promotes the perception that Apple is getting lazy or falling behind when in actuality, it's not.

The iPhone segment has come to be Apple's largest revenue source, with $US13.3 billion in net sales out of its $US28.6 billion total. Apple moved 20.3 million iPhones in the quarter with an average selling price of $US654. Comparing those figures with the same quarter three short years ago is astonishing. In the same quarter of 2008, Apple moved 717,000 iPhones at a lower selling price! Presently, Apple's iPhone segment alone is generating more sales than the entire company was three years ago.

Although I'm a little let down on the lack of an iPhone 5, I'm still bullish on Apple in the context of last quarter's 142% jump in iPhone unit sales, rising ASPs (likely somewhat attributable to greater negotiating leverage with carriers in addition to product mix shifting toward higher onboard storage which carries higher margins), and the fact that the iPad segment is showing the same promising signs as the company's newest product segment. On the bright side, this practically guarantees that next year's iPhone has to be revolutionary.

Expectations aside, the iPhone 5 would have accelerated sales growth, but the iPhone 4S should at least be able to maintain Apple's current course. Besides, when can you ever complain that the 150% iPhone net sales growth last quarter isn't enough?

Tim Beyers: More than a year has passed since Apple last refreshed its iPhone line. Initially, some of us thought the delay would destroy the Mac maker's earnings while Wall Street analysts all but guaranteed disappointing iPhone sales last quarter. They were wrong.

Will they be wrong again? I think so. The new iPhones are more of Apple doing what it does best. Simple, functional design with plenty of room for a large library of apps but now built to accommodate almost any telephony network.

Today's launch confirms what most of us already knew: Apple's business is about as secure as it's ever been. Steve Jobs couldn't have picked a better time to hand over the reins to new CEO Tim Cook.

Eric Bleeker: I can't say I'm entirely surprised; momentum was building behind an iPhone 4S. Yet, I'm still disappointed. I know some people will be quick to point out upgrades to the inside components and software, but by delaying the phone an extra three months Apple set the expectation for a lot of consumers waiting on upgrading that a revised iPhone would come.

So while lacking a tear-drop shape or any other cosmetic improvements might not affect the "functioning" of the phone, it does affect the premium perception and belief Apple leads hardware design. That perception is a key part of what Apple is.

Yet, Apple's a lot bigger than a simple design at this point; it's riding the momentum behind iOS. That's a key reason I still like Apple as a stock even if the announcement today was somewhat of a letdown.

Looking more closely at the iPhone 4S, I'll be interested to see how Apple handles its voice command function. Clearly, Apple wanted this to be the show piece, but people have tuned out because voice command has never worked well in a phone. Apple's going for something different with its artificial intelligence angle that makes voice command more functional than just talk to text.

In the end, I do think the lack of hardware changes shows the increasing difficulty of making changes as Apple's massive supply chain continues to stretch to meet surging demand. As Evan said, in the near term iPhone demand should continue unabated However, this only ups the pressure on Apple to really "wow" us whenever the iPhone 5 comes.

To discover how to take advantage of a world of investing opportunities, we invite you to join us and take a free subscription to Motley Fool Australia's free Take Stock email. Click here to sign up now, free.

This article was originally published on Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

More on ⏸️ Investing

A white and black robot in the form of a human being stands in front of a green graphic holding a laptop and discussing robotics and automation ASX shares
Technology Shares

Joining the revolution: How I'd invest in ASX AI shares right now

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) could usher in a new industrial revolution. Here’s how you can invest in it.

Read more »

Close up of baby looking puzzled
Retail Shares

What has happened to the Baby Bunting (ASX:BBN) share price this year?

It's been a volatile year so far for the Aussie nursery retailer. We take a closer look

Read more »

woman holds sign saying 'we need change' at climate change protest

3 ASX ETFs that invest in companies fighting climate change

If you want to shift some of your investments into more ethical companies, exchange-traded funds can offer a good option

Read more »

a jewellery store attendant stands at a cabinet displaying opulent necklaces and earrings featuring diamonds and precious stones.
⏸️ Investing

The Michael Hill (ASX: MHJ) share price poised for growth

Investors will be keeping an eye on the Michael Hill International Limited (ASX: MHJ) share price today. The keen interest…

Read more »

ASX shares buy unstoppable asx share price represented by man in superman cape pointing skyward
⏸️ Investing

The Atomos (ASX:AMS) share price is up 15% in a week

The Atomos (ASX: AMS) share price has surged 15% this week. Let's look at what's ahead as the company build…

Read more »

Two people in suits arm wrestle on a black and white chess board.
Retail Shares

How does the Temple & Webster (ASX:TPW) share price stack up against Nick Scali (ASX:NCK)?

How does the Temple & Webster (ASX: TPW) share price stack up against rival furniture retailer Nick Scali Limited (ASX:…

Read more »

A medical researcher works on a bichip, indicating share price movement in ASX tech companies
Healthcare Shares

The Aroa (ASX:ARX) share price has surged 60% since its IPO

The Aroa (ASX:ARX) share price has surged 60% since the Polynovo (ASX: PNV) competitor listed on the ASX in July.…

Read more »

asx investor daydreaming about US shares
⏸️ How to Invest

How to buy US shares from Australia right now

If you have been wondering how to buy US shares from Australia to gain exposure from the highly topical market,…

Read more »