Morgan Stanley: New carriers to offset impact of longer iPhone upgrade cycles

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
A new analysis from investment bank Morgan Stanley downplays investor fears that Apple's iPhone revenue could be impacted by lengthening carrier upgrade cycles and reduced subsidies, noting instead that increased distribution from new carrier partners should sustain iPhone growth.

Analyst Katy Huberty issued a note to investors on Friday addressing the "debate" over carrier subsidies. She identified uncertainty about the sustainability of carrier subsidies as "not a new concern."

Spain's top two carriers, Telefonica and Vodafone, recently announced that they would not subsidize devices for new subscribers. However, Huberty said she believes Spain's situation to be "unique in some ways" because Vodafone has higher acquisition and retention costs than the rest of Europe. The analyst also noted that the "macroeconomic backdrop in Spain is weak" and wireless revenue for the two carriers has been declining.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said as much late last month during a quarterly earnings conference call. He attributed "weak" performance by Apple in Spain to a "terrible economic situation" there. Cook also pointed out that carriers have kept subsidies for their existing customers.

Huberty wrote in her note that she doesn't expect U.S. carriers to drop subsidies. "We believe all three US carriers that currently sell the iPhone are required under contract with Apple to provide specific subsidy levels," she wrote. She also noted that their contracts were "unlikely to expire in the same year," so the carriers weren't set up to make a "joint push" to negotiate new terms.

Morgan Stanley estimates


Carriers are, however, drawing out their upgrade cycle that could nominally affect iPhone sales. For instance, AT&T now requires iPhone subscribers to have finished 20 months of their contract, up from a requirement of 18 months for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS cycles. According to the firm's calculations, every 3-month lengthening of the iPhone upgrade cycle would reduce U.S. shipments by 1.3 million units and global shipments by 3.5 million units during the fourth quarter of 2012.

Huberty sees iPhone growth as robust enough to overcome the longer upgrade cycle, especially since, historically, shipments of Apple's iPhone have continued to grow in spite of fluctuating upgrade terms. The analyst speculated that the addition of T-Mobile, expected to come in late 2012 or 2013, would add three to five million units annually, enough to offset any downsides from the longer cycle.

"AT&T, which has had the iPhone longer than any other carrier, recently lengthened their upgrade cycle for the iPhone from 18 months to 20 months. So far, it does not appear to have a significant impact on demand," she said.

According to Morgan Stanley's calculations, the firm's estimate of 165 million iPhone units in fiscal 2013 could even accommodate up to a 24-month upgrade cycle from AT&T and similar "long-serving iPhone carriers in predominantly post-paid markets."

The second part of Huberty's note explained why the firm's estimates are more conservative than current consensus projections. She pointed out that the June 2012 quarter is only the second quarter since 2008 where "Apple guided both revenue and earnings per share below consensus more than historical averages." The only other time was the September 2011 quarter, when Wall Street mistook Apple's warnings about the iPhone transition.

Huberty also looked to Apple's 10-Q as further evidence supporting Apple's conservative estimates.

"Historically, off-balance sheet commitments for manufacturing and components with a one-quarter lag have had a high correlation (95% r-squared) with revenue," she wrote. "Commitments of $13B disclosed in the March quarter 10-Q imply roughly $39B of revenue for the June quarter, which is only 3% higher than consensus."

The analyst concluded by noting that iPhone channel inventory suggests June quarter shipments of 25-28 million units, compared to the consensus estimate of 30 million. She said a sequential decline was consistent with reports from "Apple's key suppliers," who expect iPhone shipments to drop 15-20 percent quarter over quarter in the June quarter.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    jonshfjonshf Posts: 88member

    Quote:

    Huberty wrote in her note that she doesn't expect U.S. carriers to drop subsidies. "We believe all three US carriers that currently sell the iPhone are required under contract with Apple to provide specific subsidy levels," she wrote. She also noted that their contracts were "unlikely to expire in the same year," so the carriers weren't set up to make a "joint push" to negotiate new terms.


     


    "Joint push" - wouldn't that be illegal?

  • Reply 2 of 27
    cash907cash907 Posts: 893member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jonshf View Post


     


    "Joint push" - wouldn't that be illegal?





    For anyone but Apple, probably.

  • Reply 3 of 27
    michael scripmichael scrip Posts: 1,912member
    This article got me thinking...

    20 months at $90 a month.... that's $1800.

    Minus the $400 subsidy... that leaves $1400... per customer... for the length of a contract.

    Has anyone ever done a breakdown of where that money goes?

    We know text messages are a scam and don't cost very much at all... and voice shouldn't either by now. Plus... most people don't come anywhere close to their data cap... so that's money in their pockets too.

    How much of my $90 a month goes to pay for actual services... and how much goes to profit?
  • Reply 4 of 27
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post



    This article got me thinking...

    20 months at $90 a month.... that's $1800.

    Minus the $400 subsidy... that leaves $1400... per customer... for the length of a contract.

    Has anyone ever done a breakdown of where that money goes?

    We know text messages are a scam and don't cost very much at all... and voice shouldn't either by now. Plus... most people don't come anywhere close to their data cap... so that's money in their pockets too.

    How much of my $90 a month goes to pay for actual services... and how much goes to profit?


    EBITDA as a % of Service Revenue for AT&T Wireless Segment for 1Q2012 was 41.6%.  EBITDA is defined as Operating Income Before Depreciation and Amortization. Annual Service EBITDA Margin is calculated as the sum of quarterly EBITDA divided by the sum of quarterly Service Revenues. 


     


    Segment Operating Income Margin was 27.2% for AT&T Wireless Segment for 1Q2012.

  • Reply 5 of 27


    Looks like a large number of AT&T iPhone customers will be leaving for T-Mobile or Verizon or Sprint in Q4.

  • Reply 6 of 27
    adamcadamc Posts: 572member
    According to the firm's calculations, every 3-month lengthening of the iPhone upgrade cycle would reduce U.S. shipments by 1.3 million units and global shipments by 3.5 million units during the fourth quarter of 2012.

    I wonder whether they had taken into consideration the fact that Apple now introduce the iPhone at different time frames throughout the year so that there is a consistency in the number of phone sold and whatever the loss in sale in the US could easily be made up,by the rest of the world.
  • Reply 7 of 27
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by MacBook Pro View Post


    EBITDA as a % of Service Revenue for AT&T Wireless Segment for 1Q2012 was 41.6%.  EBITDA is defined as Operating Income Before Depreciation and Amortization. Annual Service EBITDA Margin is calculated as the sum of quarterly EBITDA divided by the sum of quarterly Service Revenues. 


     


    Segment Operating Income Margin was 27.2% for AT&T Wireless Segment for 1Q2012.



    EBITDA as a % of Service Revenue for Verizon Wireless Segment for 1Q2012 was 46.3%.


     


    Segment Operating Income Margin was 28.6% for Verizon Wireless Segment for 1Q2012.

  • Reply 8 of 27
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    I've upgraded on 24 month cycle, maybe now 28 months this time around because it's possible Apple pushed back their upgrade cycle from Summer to Autumn. Upgrading at 18 months hasn't made sense yet, I'd only do that if the phone broke and I'm upgrade eligible, rather than repairing it.
  • Reply 9 of 27
    jmgregory1jmgregory1 Posts: 455member


    For consumers, many will weigh the impact of early upgrade costs against the marketed benefits of the new iPhone.  Given the type of uptake Apple had with the 4S, chances are pretty good that people will buy, regardless of whether they're upgrade eligible, when this next iPhone is released.  I'm one of those consumers.  My wife, because we're on the family plan and I am the primary, is behind on upgrades.  When the new iPhone launches, either she'll take my upgrade or I'll get the new phone and she'll take my 4S and potentially pass down her 4 to one of our kids.

  • Reply 10 of 27
    dbtincdbtinc Posts: 134member


    makes sense - AT&T sucks ... independent of the phone using its "service."

  • Reply 11 of 27
    ghostface147ghostface147 Posts: 1,629member


    18-20 months?  I was able to upgrade my iPhone each year on release day.  

  • Reply 12 of 27
    al_bundyal_bundy Posts: 1,525member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dgrayson98 View Post


    Looks like a large number of AT&T iPhone customers will be leaving for T-Mobile or Verizon or Sprint in Q4.



     


     


    why? i'm on AT&T and the only reason i would go to verizon is for family data bundles.


     


    sprint is too expensive for family plans. T-Mo is about the same price but their coverage is crap

  • Reply 13 of 27
    al_bundyal_bundy Posts: 1,525member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post



    This article got me thinking...

    20 months at $90 a month.... that's $1800.

    Minus the $400 subsidy... that leaves $1400... per customer... for the length of a contract.

    Has anyone ever done a breakdown of where that money goes?

    We know text messages are a scam and don't cost very much at all... and voice shouldn't either by now. Plus... most people don't come anywhere close to their data cap... so that's money in their pockets too.

    How much of my $90 a month goes to pay for actual services... and how much goes to profit?


    how much of the iphone's cost goes to pay for the device and how much for profit? now that the iphone is on 3/4 US carriers and owned by pretty much anyone who is willing to buy it the next step is to start cutting costs

  • Reply 14 of 27
    uguysrnutsuguysrnuts Posts: 459member


    Contracts are crap anyway. I simply sell the old iPhone then save up the rest to buy unsubsidized directly from Apple. I use my iPhone and iPad more than a computer, so I figure the extra expense is justified. Plus, this way, I won't be supporting crappy AT&T service more than what's necessary.


     


    What we need is a third type of company. It is obvious that the outdated analog phone mentality of carriers cannot cope with today's data needs. I don't know the how, but I do know we have the need.

  • Reply 15 of 27
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    18-20 months?  I was able to upgrade my iPhone each year on release day. 

    You can get that if you spend enough per month. The base line for a smart phone was 18 months. If you paid more a month than a certain threshhold, then you can get an annual upgrade. I think it was $99/mo last I checked.
  • Reply 16 of 27
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by uguysrnuts View Post


    Contracts are crap anyway. I simply sell the old iPhone then save up the rest to buy unsubsidized directly from Apple. I use my iPhone and iPad more than a computer, so I figure the extra expense is justified. Plus, this way, I won't be supporting crappy AT&T service more than what's necessary.


     


    What we need is a third type of company. It is obvious that the outdated analog phone mentality of carriers cannot cope with today's data needs. I don't know the how, but I do know we have the need.



    How much does the wireless provider charge you per month and for what plan when you provide your own iPhone?

  • Reply 17 of 27

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post





    You can get that if you spend enough per month. The base line for a smart phone was 18 months. If you paid more a month than a certain threshhold, then you can get an annual upgrade. I think it was $99/mo last I checked.


    No wonder my wife gets an annual upgrade every-year, for some reason she's the main account holder even though I pay over 240/month for 4 lines

  • Reply 18 of 27
    uguysrnutsuguysrnuts Posts: 459member


    $220 for family plan(four lines, three of them are iPhones). I only buy through AT&T when naturally the contract is about to expire. Don't get me started on switching, because I've been with Verizon and Sprint (pre-iPhone), and they both suck as much as AT&T.


     


    IMO, the carriers should stick with voice, since they are all either unwilling or simply can't figure out how to provide data services without bankcrupting their customers. I am tired of paying $45 extra for capped data and slow speeds.


     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by MacBook Pro View Post


    How much does the wireless provider charge you per month and for what plan when you provide your own iPhone?


  • Reply 19 of 27
    chris_cachris_ca Posts: 2,543member
    [quote] Contracts are crap anyway. I simply sell the old iPhone then save up the rest to buy unsubsidized directly from Apple. I use my iPhone and iPad more than a computer, so I figure the extra expense is justified. Plus, this way, I won't be supporting crappy AT&T service more than what's necessary.[/quote]
    Why? Bringing your own +$600 phone and getting a month to month plan is no less expensive than getting a 2 year contract with a $200 phone. The only difference is you are in a two year contract (and you save $400).
    If you wanted to change to Verizon/Sprint, you 'd have to spend another +$600 for a new phone. You could recoup some of that by selling the old one but why?
  • Reply 20 of 27
    uguysrnutsuguysrnuts Posts: 459member


    My wife upgraded to a 64GB iPhone from a crap Sony Ericsson. It would have been $399 for the iPhone. However, since she already exhausted her upgrade privilege (the Sony phone had to be replaced twice, and basic warranty already expired), we had to shell out $650 instead.


     


    Why 64 and not 16 or 32? Well, I already had the iPhone 4, so we basically traded phones after the upgrade (with me swallowing the upgrade bill of course). As I am a heavy iOS user, I am actually using two-thirds of the storage space and had to delete some apps and music.


     


     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Chris_CA View Post



    uote] Contracts are crap anyway. I simply sell the old iPhone then save up

    the rest to buy unsubsidized directly from Apple. I use my iPhone and iPad

    more than a computer, so I figure the extra expense is justified. Plus, this

    way, I won't be supporting crappy AT&T service more than what's

    necessary.

    Quote:

    Why? Bringing your own +$600 phone and getting a month to month plan is no

    less expensive than getting a 2 year contract with a $200 phone. The only

    difference is you are in a two year contract (and you save $400).

    If you wanted to change to Verizon/Sprint, you 'd have to spend another

    +$600 for a new phone. You could recoup some of that by selling the old one

    but why?



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