The second half of 2013 may well mark Apple Inc.'s return to blockbuster profit growth. But in the meantime, there's probably a little more pain ahead.
Apple reports its third-quarter earnings on Tuesday. According to Thomson Reuters, analysts are expecting, on average, earnings of $7.31 (U.S.) per share and revenue of $35.1-billion. Should Apple hit those targets, its revenue will be essentially unchanged from the same quarter last year, and earnings per share will have declined. That would be Apple's second straight quarter of earnings decline.
The recent lacklustre results – and Apple's faltering share price, which has dropped to $425 from more than $700 last September – is because of sluggish sales of the company's tablets and smartphones. While competitors such as Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and BlackBerry Ltd. have recently released new devices, Apple isn't expected to refresh its lineup until the end of the summer.
But when it does, Apple is expected to roll out a slew of devices. These include a new high-end iPhone, as well as a more affordable version of the best-selling smartphone. The company may also introduce a new version of the iPad, and has already announced an overhauled version of the operating system that runs its phones and tablets, which will be released to the public this fall. There are also rumours that Apple will introduce a brand new device dubbed the iWatch, as well as a product aimed at taking a bite out of the TV market.
But because Apple almost never releases details of such product launches ahead of time, analysts are unlikely to hear much about them on Tuesday. Instead, the focus will be on the financial results. Because of its tendency to offer conservative guidelines, and because of the general popularity of the iPhone, Apple may well post a positive surprise on Tuesday.
Still, many analysts are skeptical. Some investors and analysts worry about troublesome trends in the wider mobile device industry. According to Canaccord Genuity analyst T. Michael Walkley, the iPhone 5 was the best-selling smartphone at almost all global carriers. The iPhone is also likely the most profitable phone in the world (in terms of how much money Apple makes every time it sells one). Yet Mr. Walkley still lowered his earnings estimates for Apple. His concern is not only the rising popularity of the iPhone's chief competitor in the high-end smartphone market (Samsung's Galaxy S4), but that the entire high-end smartphone market may be in decline.
"With Samsung reporting high-tier smartphone sales below market expectations and already reducing prices of the Galaxy S4, our survey work indicates softening demand for high-tier smartphones," he wrote in a research report earlier this month.