Analyst: It’s Time for the iPhone to Shine

The holiday quarter and the one after that will see a dramatic improvement in the iPhone’s market share, Raymond James analyst Tavis McCourt wrote in a research note on Tuesday, though longer-term prospects of the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) smartphone are a little more complicated. McCourt said his assessment came from an analysis of regional sales data that suggested Apple may corner more than half of smartphone unit sales this quarter in North America and continue to grow in the coming year.

Apple had a 14 percent of global smartphone unit sales in the third quarter of the year, while Samsung brought in a 33 percent share. “We do expect Apple to close the gap significantly in the fourth quarter and the first quarter of next year, but it is unlikely to overtake Samsung in pure volume, as Samsung continues to broaden its product line into lower price points,” McCourt wrote, according to Barron’s.

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However, the price point is also the reason why McCourt said he felt that in the longer term, the iPhone may end up more like Mac products than the “ubiquitous iPod” product line. Regional data show that emerging markets are driving smartphone growth — there was a 46 percent unit sales growth in the third quarter globally, but emerging markets grew 63 percent.

“It is clear that iPhone is very much just a high-end smartphone on a global basis, and it will be increasingly unrealistic to expect it to outgrow the smartphone market when most of the growth in the smartphone market is coming from emerging markets and prepaid markets within the developed world,” the analyst wrote. “However, with global smartphone of roughly 30 percent growth in 2013, we believe that 15-20 percent year-on-year growth is likely for the next several quarters, which is what we have baked into our financial forecast,” the analyst wrote.

The Apple phone will continue to hold its own where ecosystems matter, McCourt added. “It is important to recognize that, for many, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android phones are using custom user interfaces and, often times, do not even have any Google content on the phone,” McCourt wrote. “Although the unit stats are staggeringly in Android’s favor, we believe app monetization and app developer resources continue to favor Apple.”

Raymond James has a Buy rating on Apple and an $800 price target.

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