Why Apple's Lead Will Continue to Grow

Love it or hate it, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is flying high after the company's recent product launch for the iPhone 5. Pent-up demand for the new devices boiled over, with record iPhone 5 sales surpassing the 2 million mark during its first day available for pre-order. It hasn't been a bad year for Apple shareholders either, as the stock is up more than 73% year to date. Yet, the story becomes even more interesting when you consider Apple's new rollout strategy.

The iPhone 5 world tour
One of the contributing factors is the iGadget maker's aggressive international distribution strategy. As early as Sept. 21, the iPhone 5 will be available in the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and the U.K., according to Reuters. Additionally, the new model will be available in 100 countries by year end.   

The company's aggressive global rollout is particularly important considering that analysts had previously anticipated supply chain constraints involving the device's new touchscreen displays. Moreover, if Apple can hit its ambitious goal of reaching 31 countries before the end of the month, it will significantly boost earnings for its current fiscal quarter, which ends on Sept. 29. The move also highlights the increased pressure on smartphone makers, in general, to release new products before the holiday shopping rush in December.  

Mad dash
Apple isn't the only tech name hustling to get a new mobile device to market. Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) was quick to debut two new Windows-based smartphones in a presentation earlier this month. Unfortunately, Nokia left out key details, including pricing, carriers, and a specific delivery date for the upcoming Lumia 820 and Lumia 920 devices. What gives?

The lack of particulars during Nokia's latest product launch could be tied to the fact that the company was in a hurry to unveil its new smartphones before Apple stole the spotlight with its iPhone 5 debut. So far, however, not even Nokia's software partner Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) has been able to save the struggling company from bleeding market share in the mobile space. Ultimately, Nokia's botched product launch largely disappointed analysts, despite new technology and an upgraded Windows platform. Unlike Nokia, Apple left nothing to the imagination during its device launch last week.

Record pace
The iPhone 5 debut also set a sales pre-order record for AT&T (NYSE: T  ) . The mobile carrier issued a statement on Monday, saying, "Customers ordered more iPhones from AT&T than any previous model both on its first day of preorders and over the weekend." When the original iPhone was released in 2007, AT&T was the first service provider to carry the device. Shares of AT&T rival Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) also soared higher on Apple's coattails, though not for the reason you'd suspect.

As Fool analyst Eric Bleeker pointed out last week, the iPhone 5's addition of 4G LTE pushed shares of Verizon higher because the company boasts the largest LTE network in the country. For Apple, the importance of the iPhone 5 should not be understated. Let's not forget that iPhone sales now account for half of the company's total revenue (followed by sales of its popular iPad device). Apple is expected to announce a smaller iPad next month, which should also fuel profits in the company's fiscal fourth quarter.

Apple's still got it
Apple products are already some of the best in class in terms of user experience. However, the company's biggest challenge going forward will be whether or not Apple can achieve the same level of success outside of the U.S. Growth in emerging markets is particularly important as Apple attempts to regain its footing in China. The Asian country is Apple's second-largest market after the U. S., although rival Samsung currently dominates the Chinese market with 19% market share. I suspect the iPhone 5's early launch in the region should boost Apple's position there.

It remains to be told whether or not Apple will finally get China Mobile on board. As the world's largest wireless carrier, China Mobile would be a no-brainer for the iPhone 5 if not for the issue of connectivity standards. I think there's a real possibility that Apple and China Mobile will partner up in 2013, especially considering China will likely dethrone the U.S. this year to become the largest smartphone market on the planet. 

Despite the wild success this company has already achieved, the stock remains attractive with a P/E of 16, and a margin of safety to the tune of $100 billion in cash. Now that the company's global iPhone 5 strategy is underway, it's clear that Apple is headed for world domination. However, there are some important plot twists that investors should watch out for as Apple closes out the year. The Fool covers all the need-to-know details in this new premium research report. In addition to key opportunities and risks facing the Mac maker, the report also includes a year's worth of timely updates related to Apple's stock. Click here to get your copy now, while it's still available.

Foolish contributor Tamara Rutter owns shares of Apple. Follow her on Twitter, @TamaraRutter, for more Foolish insights and investing advice. The Motley Fool owns shares of China Mobile, Apple, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have also recommended creating a synthetic covered call position in Microsoft and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2012, at 9:09 PM, techy46 wrote:

    Apple doesn't have a lead anyplace but the US. Android has the lead everywhere else with Microsoft and Nokia trying to take some of that lead from Android. Apple's closed proprietary ecosystem has lost in all markets except the US and will lose here once W8 and WP8 gain traction globally.

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