We have reached peak iPhone.
That is the feeling among many investors and business commentators as the once unbridled optimism about Apple’s future — and its number one product — begins to wane.
The tech giant has cut production orders in recent weeks for all three iPhone models launched in September, the Wall Street Journal reported this week.
Apple shocked investors a few weeks ago with a sales forecast for the Christmas quarter below Wall Street expectations, prompting certain suppliers to issue warnings that pointed to weakness in new iPhone sales.
Forecasts have been particularly problematic for the iPhone Xr with Apple cutting its production plan by up to a third of the nearly 70 million units some suppliers had been asked to produce between September and February, according to the report.
Apple was once the clear industry leader but the smartphone wars have been getting increasingly competitive in recent years. Google joined the fray a few years ago with its premium model Pixel smartphone while Chinese giants like Huawei and Oppo have also joined Samsung and Apple near the top of the pile. On top of that, a number of studies suggest consumers are keeping their phones for longer in part because dramatic advancements in smartphone tech have slowed, adding to downward pressure of demand. As a result, global smartphone sales saw their first year-on-year fall in history at the end of 2017.
Earlier this year, Apple became the first company to reach a $US1 trillion valuation but after a decline in its share price recently, many believe it might not get back to the milestone again.
“Apple’s market capitalisation got to $1.1 trillion US dollars and that is probably peak Apple,” noted ABC and News Corp journalist Alan Kohler on the latest podcast episode of The Money Cafe.
Part of that thinking is the idea that innovation is harder to come by in the smartphone market these days.
“They can’t actually come up with much now that’s going to get people to swap phones really quickly,” he added. “They’re not actually changing that much any more.”
Apple isn’t the only tech giant that is facing headwinds. After decade of immense growth in the US tech sector — underpinned by the longest bull run in history — technology and internet companies have gained eye-watering valuations.
But caution has well and truly set in.
Facebook continues to lurch from crisis to crisis, Amazon has come under fire for receiving unjust tax benefits while paying staff too little, Google has admitted to widespread data breaches and faced backlash from employees over its involvement in military initiatives, and Netflix has faced questions about continued user growth.
As a result, the share price of these major tech companies have taken a sizeable hit in recent months.
Overnight US and technology and internet companies tumbled again, leading to losses across the stock markets that tend to bleed into the ASX.
Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, the most valuable companies on the market, sustained some of the worst losses. After a brutal October, stocks had started to recover early this month but continued losses for tech companies have sent major indexes lower again.
Mark Hackett, chief of investment research at Nationwide Investment Management in the US said investors are dumping the high-profile technology companies that have dominated the market recently.
Speaking to the Associated Press, he said investors are picking companies based on traditional profit and revenue figures instead of the kind of user growth figures favoured by tech companies.
“These things had outperformed the S&P by a mile over the last three years,” he said, but that’s changed now. “On good days they’re not the leaders, and on bad days they’re the laggards.”
— With AP