Apple (AAPL 0.48%) headed into its fiscal 2021 first quarter with high expectations from investors. The highlight of Apple's quarter was the launch of the iPhone 12, the tech titan's first 5G smartphone. Investors anticipated robust sales as wireless carriers push their 5G networks and build excitement around the new iPhones. All signs indicate Apple's delivered on those expectations.
Here are three of the most noteworthy developments bolstering Apple's stock heading into its earnings report later this month.
1. You still have to wait forever to get an iPhone 12 Pro
It's been more than two months since Apple released the iPhone 12 Pro, and customers buying today still need to wait up to three weeks for delivery. That might as well be forever in the age of next-day delivery. By comparison, it took just six weeks for iPhone 11 demand to reach equilibrium with supply last year, according to Credit Suisse analyst Matthew Cabral.
The regular iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Mini are much more readily available both in-store and for immediate shipping. That suggests Apple should see a higher average selling price (ASP) for the iPhone when it announces its first-quarter results.
Apple is reportedly ramping up production for the iPhone 12 in the first half of 2021. Combined with other factors suggesting very strong iPhone sales for the quarter, the higher ASP should lead to iPhone revenue significantly outperforming. And considering iPhone accounts for 50% of revenue, and typically closer to 60% in the first quarter, that should have a meaningful impact on its revenue versus expectations.
2. Suppliers are posting big revenue numbers
Apple's biggest iPhone assembler, Foxconn, announced record revenue for the month of December. The Taiwanese company, which trades as Hon Hai Precision, reported sales of 713.8 billion New Taiwan dollars (about $25.5 billion) for December, and quarterly revenue of NT$2 trillion. That beat expectations of NT$1.8 trillion, according to Bloomberg.
Foxconn's outperformance is also in line with the greater-than-expected demand for the iPhone 12 Pro. The company is the exclusive supplier of the high-end devices.
Meanwhile, Dialog Semiconductor raised its fourth-quarter revenue outlook from a range of $380 million to $430 million to between $436 million and $441 million, Barron's reports. The chipmaker cited increased demand for 5G chips as the reason. Considering Apple accounts for the majority of its revenue, it's a pretty good bet those chips are going in iPhone 12s.
And in late December, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said his Asia supply chain checks "have now exceeded even our 'bull case scenario'" in a note to investors.
3. New records in the App Store
Apple reported record gross sales for its App Store in its annual new year update. In the week between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, iOS users spent $1.8 billion in the App Store. That's up 27% from last year, and an acceleration from the 16% growth in sales in the same period in 2019. The company also recorded $540 million in sales on New Year's Day, up nearly 40% from last year. Those numbers indicate a lot of new iPhones under the tree this year.
It also bodes well for Apple's all-important services segment -- its fastest-growing and highest-margin business. The App Store is Apple's most profitable service, generating gross profits well above its subscription services like Apple Music or Apple TV+. So outperformance on that front should lead to better-than-expected earnings.
Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty notes, "If we keep the rest of our December quarter Apple Services forecast unchanged, the latest App Store data would imply December quarter Services revenue of $14.84 [billion] ... 40 [basis points] ahead of consensus at $14.78 [billion]." It's very likely, however, that stronger App Store sales are a good indication of stronger sales of Apple's other services.
It looks like the iPhone supercycle may be a reality this year based on the early results we've seen and other hints at strong demand. And that'll bolster Apple's entire business -- and the FAANG stock -- when it reports its full results on Jan. 27.