Smartphones have been one of the largest technology trends of the past half-decade. But despite all the attention they've received in recent years, their momentum's only now hitting its peak. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) predicted that smartphone sales grew a whopping 51% in 2010, and it's predicting 56% growth this year.
As we wrap up January, let's review the fortunes of the mobile companies that have thus far reported earnings. In addition, I'll give you one company that has yet to report earnings, but which has tailwinds which could propel it beyond investor expectations.
The winners' circle
- One of January's most impressive companies was small audio-chip maker Cirrus Logic
, which owes its outstanding quarter largely to Apple (Nasdaq: CRUS) . Thanks to blowout demand for Apple products, in which Cirrus Logic has design wins across all product lines, Cirrus was able to deliver strong earnings last quarter while maintaining a positive outlook for the future. (Nasdaq: AAPL)
Before last quarter, Apple accounted for 44% of Cirrus Logic's sales. In its most recent quarter, that figure shot all the way up to 54%. While the company is working hard to broaden its revenue base by scoring wins in other tablet and smartphone designs, and entering new product categories in energy, its results in the coming quarters should increasingly depend on Apple's performance.
is finally living up to the expectations set for it back in the dot-com bubble. The company has become the de facto wireless leader, profiting from an explosion of wireless, always-connected devices. The main positive for Qualcomm, which collects a licensing fee on every data-capable phone sold, is that phones' selling prices are on the rise. In technology, rising prices and passing time usually work as well together as a pair of Crocs worn with socks, but Qualcomm predicted phone selling prices between $190 and $200 this fiscal year. That's up from $179-$185 in the fall quarter. Combine rising prices with the company's dominant market share in processors used in Android and Windows phones, and 2011 keeps looking better for Qualcomm. (Nasdaq: QCOM)
The losers' circle
RF Micro Devices
is front and center in the mobile world's recent laggards. Think of the company as the anti-Cirrus Logic. Last quarter, it saw only 11% year-over-year revenue growth, thanks to its heavy reliance on fading Nokia (Nasdaq: RFMD) . Remove sales to Nokia, and its revenue actually rose 60% year over year. Ouch. RF Micro is working to diversify its customer base, but with Nokia representing 55% of RF's sales last fiscal year, diversifying its revenue base is a difficult process, which could place its performance behind peers Skyworks (NYSE: NOK) and TriQuint (Nasdaq: SWKS) . (Nasdaq: TQNT)
One stock to watch
- Speaking of TriQuint, the company reports earnings next Wednesday. Like Cirrus Logic, TriQuint derives a large portion of its revenue from its inclusion in the iPhone. In its most recent quarter, the company reported that 24% of sales came from iPhone manufacturer Foxconn.
Despite Apple's blowout quarter, price targets for TriQuint's upcoming quarter have stayed the same over the past couple of weeks. Looking ahead to its earnings, TriQuint could ride the same Apple wave as Cirrus and surprise investors. Also, looking even further into the future, the company appears well-positioned to profit from the mobile boom, as smartphone manufacturers create advanced designs that require more of the power amplifiers that are TriQuint's specialty. That allows TriQuint to not only profit from rapidly increasing amounts of smartphone sales, but also collect more revenue per smartphone.
If you're looking to stay ahead of the mobile news, you can follow my Twitter feed, where I'm always on the hunt for new mobile bargains. Also, if you're looking for some other ideas for strong outperformers in the year ahead, The Motley Fool has created a new, free report, "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2011." In it, we reveal the company set to profit from the broadband Internet expansion which is being fueled in part by the massive growth of mobile data. Get instant access by clicking here -- it's free.