Nomura

Analyst: Apple caught 'flat footed' in Asian smartphone race

May 23, 2013: 11:57 AM ET

Says current iPhones are "poorly aligned" with the factors driving smartphone growth.

Click to enlarge.

Bad news for Apple in the Asia Pacific market. Click to enlarge.

FORTUNE -- In a note to clients Thursday, Nomura's Stuart Jeffrey raised his estimates for smartphone sales in 2013, 2014 and 2015 by 13%, 16% and 14%, respectively.

But not for Apple (AAPL).

"Despite Apple commanding an 18% smartphone share," he writes, "we have not increased our Apple estimates."

The reason, he says, is that Apple's current crop of iPhones are "poorly aligned" with the factors that are driving smartphone sales growth.

Specifically:

  • He sees APAC (the Asia and Pacific market) driving 70-79% of growth; Apple's APAC market share in the first quarter of 2013 was 13%.
  • He believes "good enough" Android phones priced at $100 or less are driving most of the growth; Apple has no unsubsidized phones in that price range.
  • He says 5" screen sizes are driving the higher-priced market segments, a segment where Apple has no exposure.
  • Local application development in APAC is focused on Android, giving Android what he believes is a big competitive advantage over Apple.

Although Jeffery -- like most Apple analysts -- is convinced the company will launch a lower-priced iPhone before the end of the year, he expects the new phone's unsubsidized price will likely be $400 -- "too expensive to boost Apple's addressable market."

According to Jeffery, Apple's top brass has not yet caught on to these market trends.

"It tends to take companies 12–24 months to change product development plans once management realizes that changes are needed," he writes. "We thus see continued operational challenges for Apple until at least 2014."

Although Apple hit $446.16 in mid-morning trading Thursday, Jeffrey is sticking with his "neutral" rating and a 12-month price target of $420.

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