Should you really buy Apple stock?

Pre-sales for the latest iPhone may seem strong, but its lower-tiered models are not selling as expected.

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This article was originally published on Fool.com. All figures quoted in US dollars unless otherwise stated.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is one of the most innovative companies to date. Investing in Apple has felt like a no-brainer as its consistently successful products seem to make the company unstoppable. Even as the Nasdaq-100 Technology Sector index is down 35% year to date, thanks to inflation and slowing consumer spending, Apple's stock is down a more modest 17% in the same period. 

Immensely popular products such as the iPhone, MacBook, iPad, and Apple Watch have grown Apple's market cap to $2.4 trillion, making it the world's highest valued company. As a result, investors such as Warren Buffett have heartily vouched for the tech manufacturer, consigning 41% of Berkshire Hathaway's portfolio to Apple.

The iPhone titan has proven time and time again that its business is consistent and able to weather most storms. However, sales for its latest iPhone may not be as positive as some have reported. If true, the company's biggest segment could take a significant hit in its current quarter.

Apple's bread and butter

For the last decade, iPhone sales have made up at least 40% of Apple's revenue, with some quarters seeing the smartphones hit almost 70%. For instance, in the third and most recent quarter of 2022, Apple reported iPhone sales had made up 49% of its revenue. Meanwhile, the rest of its revenue went as follows: 8.7% to iPads, 8.8% to Macs, 9.7% to Wearables, Home and Accessories, and 23.6% to Services.  

Like clockwork, Apple announces its newest lineup of iPhones almost every September, with sales remaining consistent throughout the year. However, Apple has made a significant push into services over the last few years. The introduction of apps such as its streaming service Apple TV+, Music, Fitness+, and iCloud has pushed consumers further into the company's ecosystem of products and boosted revenue.

In the fourth quarter of 2021, services made up 15.7% of the company's revenue versus 23.6% in Apple's latest quarter. The rise of services is positive as it can aid in safeguarding the company in the event of poor iPhone sales, which look to be a real possibility in Apple's latest lineup. 

A potential dip 

On Sept. 7, Apple unveiled its latest series of iPhones with the iPhone 14, Plus, Pro, and Pro Max. The lineup saw a return to the "Plus" model for the lower-tiered phones, which hadn't surfaced since the iPhone 8 Plus in 2017. Since then, the largest option has only been available in the Pro models under the label "Pro Max."

While multiple media outlets have reported record-breaking sales for Apple's iPhone 14 Pro and Pro max, a recent report from Apple analyst Ming-Chu Kuo has shown poor sales for the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus. Kuo explained that the Pro models are currently showing delivery wait times of more than four weeks, which suggests good demand. However, the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus have been available in retail stores from their launch dates, which "reflects lackluster demand."

Weak pre-sales for the non-Pro models are concerning as they are usually the highest-selling iPhones in the yearly lineup. In 2019, the base model iPhone 11 was the top-selling version every week in the year's last quarter. Then, in the first half of 2020, the iPhone 11 sold 79% more units than the Pro Max version and 82% more than the smaller Pro model. As the lower-priced base models, the iPhone 14 and the bigger Plus version would normally be outselling the Pro versions, but that doesn't seem to be the case in 2022.

Kuo surmised that current sales indicate the iPhone 14 and Plus are selling worse than last year's iPhone 13 mini, which Apple cut production on in the first half of 2022 because of low demand. As a result, Apple could do the same to the iPhone 14 and Plus and slim down production as soon as November, according to Kuo.

In the latest iPhone 14 lineup, Apple worked to widen the gap between the base and the Pro models, offering far more new features and tweaks in design to the more expensive versions. However, the result meant incremental differences between last year's iPhone 13 and 2022's 14, and price hikes abroad have caused far worse iPhone sales than in previous years.

Is Apple's stock a buy?

According to Bloomberg, analysts expect Apple sales to rise 6% in its current quarter, down from 29% the previous year, which was primarily fueled by "pandemic-bound consumers" pumping up demand for technology. The company has bet on its Pro models this year, which have so far reached record numbers. However, the question is, will the higher-end versions sell enough to offset slower sales from the base model iPhone 14s?

Only time will tell, but regardless, Apple continues to be an excellent investment in the long term. While a potential dip is concerning, the company has proven itself as an innovative company worth investing in over time. The stock may be even more of a buy in the case of a dip as it is unlikely to be down for long, suggesting current investors would do well to hold until shares rise again. 

This article was originally published on Fool.com. All figures quoted in US dollars unless otherwise stated.

Dani Cook has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has positions in and has recommended Apple. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has recommended the following options: long March 2023 $120 calls on Apple and short March 2023 $130 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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