AAPL stock is currently trading at or just under the $500 "generational bottom" in the premarket session, or nearly a one year low, following news first from Japan's Nikkei that Apple has slashed orders for iPhone 5 components, and then from the WSJ, that demand for the flagship phone was far less than expected, resulting in a cut in orders in the supply chain. Per the WSJ: "Apple's orders for iPhone 5 screens for the January-March quarter, for example, have dropped to roughly half of what the company had previously planned to order, the people said. The Cupertino, Calif., company has also cut orders for components other than screens, according to one of the people. Apple notified the suppliers of the order cut last month, the people said."
The move comes as the company has been facing greater challenges from Samsung Electronics Co. 005930.SE +1.24% and other makers of smartphones powered by Google Inc.'s Android operating system. While Apple has set the agenda for the smartphone market since it released its first iPhone in 2007, South Korea's Samsung, which sells many Android-based models at various price points, has already overtaken the U.S. company as the world's largest smartphone vendor by market share. Demand is also growing for inexpensive smartphones from Chinese makers such as Huawei Technologies Co.
While the popularity of iPhones and iPads has been boosting Apple's earnings and investors' expectations over the past few years, there have been concerns in recent quarters about how long the growth momentum can continue. Apple's stock price, which peaked at about $705.07 in September, closed Friday at $520.30, down 0.6%.
In the 2012 third quarter, Apple held 14.6% of world-wide smartphone shipments, down from a peak of 23% in the fourth quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012, according to IDC.
Samsung's market share, meanwhile, rose to 31.3% in the third quarter of 2012, compared with 8.8% in the third quarter of 2010. The Korean company said earlier this month that it expects to report another record operating profit for the fourth quarter of 2012, capping its best year ever amid strong sales of its Galaxy line of smartphones. The company expects an operating profit of between $8.1 billion and $8.5 billion for the three months ended in December.
Apple's cut in orders may also affect first-quarter sales of component makers, some of which are largely dependent on the U.S. company. The fact that some iPhone components are highly customized makes it difficult for suppliers to find alternative buyers in a short time frame. Sharp, one of the suppliers of the screens, has been struggling financially with a cash crunch and losses from its television operations.
Perhaps most surprising is that this actually comes as a surprise to some, and yet we look forward to Gene Munster's explanation for how his channel checks may have been so very off. Then again there is always the iPhone 6. And then, a few months later, the iPhone 7, and so on. That time(s) will be different.