Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) shares have spent much of the year to date trading below $100. With a bounce well ahead of the iPhone 7 announcement, shares climbed above $100 in late July, and have stayed there ever since. Post release of the iPhone 7, Apple’s shares are off 3% to $105.50. If analysts post estimates that early iPhone 7 sales are poor, the stock may well break below $100 again
The phone has some improvements, but none that would push it well ahead of the features in Samsung’s Galaxy S7. There are unlikely to be lines stretched for miles from Apple stores, or wireless carrier stores, when the phone becomes available.
Perhaps as important, evidence increasingly shows that Apple’s loose grip on the Chinese market is slipping. Not only is Samsung a behemoth there. China-based Oppo, Huawei and Xiaomi have exploited their home court advantage as well. The iPhone 7 features are unlikely to shake the growth these three have posted. Apple CEO Tim Cook has stated on more than one occasion that Greater China, as Apple calls it, is absolutely critical to the company’s success. In the most recent quarter, Apple’s revenue in the region actually dropped from the previous year.
This all leaves Apple one final chance to increase its share price sharply. Sales of the iPhone 7 need to be spectacular in the first few days it is available and then throughout the holiday season. If they are not, and Apple posts weak numbers in the next two quarterly reports, shares are more likely to drop than soar.