Will we see a refresh for the iPhone, iPad, Mac? – Seeking Alpha

It was a year ago tomorrow that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) sent out invitations for a March 21st event. Just a few weeks later, Apple would unveil and then release its new smaller iPhone, the SE, along with a 9.7-inch version of its iPad Pro. While these products might not have necessarily made a huge dent in the company’s quarterly results, they likely delivered enough to make a difference when we look at this year’s comparisons.

Now that we are more than a week into March, it is time for Apple to refresh these products. Apple’s March ending fiscal Q2 period finished on March 26th last year. That was two days after pre-orders started for both the iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro, but shipments did not start until the 31st, putting us a few days into the fiscal Q3 period. A few weeks later, Apple would make some upgrades to its retina MacBook line.

Sure, the iPhone SE seemed likely a one-time release, hence the “SE” naming standing for special edition as many say. There was/is a crowd that still favors a smaller, 4-inch display phone, but it appears that it may not be large enough for annual refreshes. As I’ve detailed in the past, it doesn’t seem like Apple will launch a SE 2 or similar type model this year. While the phone isn’t critical to Apple’s overall success, even a few million unit sales and you’re talking about revenues into the billions of dollars.

More important, currently, may be Apple’s strategy with the iPad. The 9.7-inch Pro is nearly a year old, the 12.9-inch is almost half a year older, and the company still sells models like the Mini 2, which launched in late 2013. As you can expect, there are all sorts of rumors out there, from those suggesting four new models are coming soon to that say a refresh won’t come until the second half of this year. That last link also suggests a new color iPhone 7 along with a 128 GB iPhone SE, but we’ll see what happens.

If we don’t get anything new in the next few weeks, or if these products don’t ship until late April or perhaps May, it could set up Apple for a guidance disappointment at next month’s earnings report. As you can see in the table below, revenue growth in fiscal Q3 (June quarter) is expected to accelerate 300 basis points from the current period. That could be hard if you don’t have new products to match last year’s launches.

(Source: Yahoo! Finance analyst estimates page)

Now, I understand that right now, Apple investors probably aren’t very concerned with results over the next few months. Most are waiting for the potential super cycle with the iPhone 8, perhaps some tax reform and repatriation holidays, and a capital return plan update next month that includes a dividend raise. However, Apple shares are at all-time highs currently, and that means expectations are definitely inflated. No new product launches in the next few weeks could set up for a sizable guidance disappointment come earnings time, and the last thing investors want right now is to give the bear camp something to latch on to.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

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