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Apple's 2 Biggest Growth Opportunities

By Ashraf Eassa - Updated Dec 11, 2017 at 2:51PM

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What might Apple's future hold?

For the fiscal year that ended at the end of September, Apple (AAPL 2.45%) reported revenue just shy of $229 billion. While this was nearly $14 billion more than it generated in its prior fiscal year, it was about $4.5 billion shy of the all-time record it put up during fiscal year 2015.

During the current fiscal year, analysts expect Apple to enjoy nearly 20% revenue growth to achieve a new all-time record of about $274 billion.

Though fiscal year 2018 promises to be a great year for Apple, growth stock investors are more interested in a company with multiple years of solid growth ahead of it. 

Is Apple that kind of stock? Well, here are two of Apple's biggest long-term growth opportunities. 

The iPhone X.

Image source: Apple.

1. iPhone

It's no secret that the smartphone market, Apple's largest market by far, is maturing. The iPhone accounted for nearly 55% of Apple's revenue in the most recent quarter. Industrywide smartphone unit shipment rates are bound to slow, and Apple isn't immune to that broader trend. 

However, there are two ways that Apple can work to offset that trend. 

The first is by working to increase the average selling prices of its iPhones and the second is to try to gain smartphone market share at the expense of other vendors. 

Increasing average selling prices is a tricky proposition: The company could jack up the prices on its phones across the board, but that would likely come with a corresponding decrease in demand. 

It would be more accurate, then, to say that Apple's goal is to increase average selling prices without impacting unit shipments. 

Many Apple iPhones, lying flat.

Image source: Apple.

It can do that by being more aggressive in building out a portfolio of products that addresses a wider range of price points as it started doing with the iPhone 6 series (Apple introduced a standard-sized iPhone and a Plus-size iPhone at a higher price point) and continued with this year's trio of iPhones (an even higher-end and pricier iPhone X above the iPhone 8 Plus was added to the lineup). 

The products that come in at higher price points need to have additional features compelling enough that customers are willing to pay more for them -- that's the real trick. 

I think over time Apple can continue to expand the high end of the iPhone price range, which could have the effect of slowly but surely improving the capabilities of its best iPhones relative to the lower-cost models. 

As far as growing unit shipments, Apple can do this through a combination of adding targeted products at the lower end of the iPhone product stack (the iPhone SE comes to mind) to increase its share of the lower end of the market while also building more compelling products at the high end. 

Indeed, if Apple can continue to make the products that it offers at each price point more irresistible in addition to broadening the range of price points that it goes after, it stands a real shot at growing its share of the smartphone market by a considerable amount. 

2. Services

Apple's second-largest business unit by revenue is its services business, with 16% of revenue in the most recent quarter. This encompasses a whole host of services, including Apple Music subscriptions, App Store sales, Apple Care, Apple Pay, and more. 

This segment grew quite rapidly over the last two years, with revenue growth coming in at 22% during fiscal year 2016 compared to fiscal 2015 levels and accelerating to 23% in fiscal year 2017 compared to fiscal year 2016 levels. 

In the first quarter of FY 2017, Apple said it planned to double services revenue in the next four years. 

Doubling the services business between 2016 and 2020 means Apple is looking to grow this business to about $48 billion in annual revenue by 2020. That would still pale in comparison to the iPhone business, but an additional $19 billion or so of raw revenue growth over the next few years is nothing to sneeze at. 

For some perspective, that incremental growth would be about the size of the iPad business during fiscal year 2017. 

Time will tell if Apple can pull off its ambitious goal, but if it can, then that's nothing but good news for shareholders. 

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