We don't know how many iPhones Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is selling this weekend, but we do know that investors were all over the stock leading up to Friday's release of the latest generation of its iconic smartphone. Shares of Apple moved 11.4% higher last week, fueled by bullish analyst notes, aggressive U.S. carrier promotions, and a growing consensus that the new product cycle may work out just fine for the consumer-electronics giant.
Apple's rally -- namely, its 12.1% pop from Monday to Thursday before taking a small step back on Friday -- was its heartiest four-day spike in more than two years. The gains during that four-day run were consistent, up 2.2%, 2.4%, 3.5%, and 3.3%, respectively.
There's excitement building for the updated device that improves the included storage, battery life, camera, and processor of last year's model. The controversial move to eliminate the headphone jack -- a necessary evil to make it dust- and water-resistant -- is turning heads and apparently getting folks to consider replacing their current smartphones.
Connecting again with consumers
Three of the four leading U.S. carriers chimed in to say that pre-orders of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus were running ahead of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus a year earlier. On Thursday, Apple announced that the initial supply of the iPhone 7 Plus and the jet-black iPhone 7 model had sold out worldwide.
There were some field reports that lines at Apple stores weren't as long on Friday morning as in years past, but bullish analysts dismissed the relevance. With carriers doing a better job of reaching out to existing customers and the growing popularity of online ordering, there's no longer the dire urgency to camp out at your local Apple mall store.
Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, one of the more vocal Apple bulls over the years, pointed out that the launch line at Apple's signature store in New York City's 5th Avenue was just 400 patrons deep, down from the 650 it counted at last year's iPhone 6s rollout and the prior year's 1,880 who queued up for the iPhone 6. We can dismiss the 2014 frenzy, since it coincided with the phone's new form factor and the introduction of the larger Plus line. We'll have to wait until next year, when Apple is widely expected to once again shake up the form factor of the iPhone. Munster isn't worried. He remains bullish.
Other analysts also checked in last week, pushing their price targets higher. There may have been some initial concerns with the elimination of the headphone jack, but that isn't getting in the way of early adopters from upgrading. The Apple Watch Series 2 that the tech giant also unveiled earlier this month won't be as big a difference maker as the new iPhone, but it has enough updated features to win over new buyers.
Throw in the success that Apple is having outside hardware -- from the growing acceptance of ApplePay as a payment platform to iCloud storage to the Apple Music streaming platform with 17 million premium subscribers -- and the stock is a market darling again. It may not have any fresh numbers to reveal tomorrow, the way it has following previous launch weekends, but just because it has nothing to say isn't cause for concern.