The moment is almost here. Unless you live under a rock, you know the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) Watch -- the first new product since the death of Steve Jobs in 2011 -- is about to be released. A new report courtesy of The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) outlines initial sales expectations for the new device. And if these estimates are correct, the unit could have significant implications for year-over-year revenue growth at the company.
Specifically, the Journal references "people familiar with the matter" who claim Apple ordered between 5 million and 6 million units, with half of production earmarked for the low-end Sport model, a third for the mid-tier Apple Watch, and the remainder for the high-end edition.
And while many details are still unconfirmed -- most notably the pricing for mid and high-end models -- it appears the Apple Watch could be the revenue growth driver the company needs for a typically slow period.
One quarter is not like the others
If the last four quarters are any indication, Apple could use a mid-year revenue boost. The first fiscal quarter (fourth calendar quarter) is where Apple really outperformed, growing revenue nearly 30% year-over-year. Led by the newest iterations of its iPhone, Apple smashed all expectations and propelled the stock to all-time highs.
That said, year-over-year revenue growth each quarter was rather lumpy, with the vast majority of that growth coming from its seasonally heavy first fiscal quarter. The chart below provides some perspective:
As you can see, although Apple grew its total revenue 14.8% over the last four quarters compared with the prior period, the vast majority of revenue growth was attributed to one amazing quarter. As a matter of fact, nearly two-thirds of the total 65.9% top-line growth came from the holiday quarter.
Meanwhile, mid-year performance was less impressive. And while it is important to note that 5% to 6% year-over-year growth is still amazing for a company pushing nearly $200 billion in revenue, a shot in the arm during the seasonally slower quarters should only be an additional catalyst for the stock.
How much revenue growth from the initial production order?
As you can see, one of those "low" growth quarters is the third fiscal quarter that typically starts around April 1st. With an April release expected, the Apple Watch will be most felt during that quarter. Assuming forecasts are correct -- the company errs on the conservative side, if anything -- the Apple Watch will add roughly 16.8% growth to the quarter year-over-year, holding all other factors constant.
|Apple Watch Brand||Watch Sport||Apple Watch||Apple Watch Edition|
|Units produced at midpoint||2.75 million||1.83 million||.92 million|
|Total revenue per segment||$962.5 million||$732 million||$4.6 billion|
|Total revenue||$6.3 billion|
The estimated $5,000 Apple Edition price point came courtesy of WSJ and was expanded upon by Jon Gruber of Daring Fireball. Mr. Gruber estimates the high-end model has the potential to add the aforementioned $4.6 billion in revenue per quarter -- not just with its initial run. If so, the Watch product line would rocket up to nearly $6.3 billion, taking its place as one of the largest product segments after the iPhone. And even better for investors, the aforementioned product/revenue mix should have a positive effect on gross margins.
That said, I personally think replicating these results every quarter will be challenging. The Apple Watch should not be an impressive revenue driver in its own right after initial demand is satiated, but it will help with revenue growth this year, managing expectations if the next version of the iPhone -- tentatively dubbed the iPhone 6s -- does not set fresh records.