With Apple's (AAPL) share price now nearing $400, retail investors looking to get in may feel stricken with a case of oddlot-itis. Want to profit from Apple's continued success in the mobile market without buying the stock itself? Here are some ideas for the upcoming next-generation iPhone release.
Given the latest legal drama involving the patent disputes between Samsung (SSNLF.PK) and Apple, it may not be surprising that Apple wishes to stop feeding one of its largest competitors. Apple spends billions of dollars annually on Samsung components (Apple is Samsung's biggest customer), but there are reports circulating that Apple will switch over some chip manufacturing to Taiwan Semiconductor (TSM). TSM currently trades with a P/E in line with its peers and a dividend yield of around 3.4%.
Marketing teams have been touting "4G" as the next-greatest advance in telephone networks for some time now - Apple will play to this and likely include 4G support in their next device. Consider opening a position in Qualcomm (QCOM) if you believe this is the case, as their current 4G LTE chips in the HTC Thunderbolt cost approximately $35, one of the most expensive components built into the phone.
The Qualcomm module will allow the iPhone to function on Verizon's (VZ) 4G LTE network and AT&T's (T) eventual 4G LTE network, while maintaining backwards compatibility for older 3G networks. Conservatively estimating an order for 20 million devices (Apple sold this many iPhones in its latest quarter), this would provide a nice boost to QCOM's top line.
Apple's current component suppliers for the iPhone 4 are unlikely to be left behind in the next hardware revision as well. For a play on the iPhone's audio chip, try Cirrus Logic (CRUS). To bet on the iPhone's radio transmission chips, try Skyworks (SWKS) and TriQuint (TQNT). Finally, for a safer play, try Broadcom (BRCM) - the manufacturer of the latest iPhone's WiFi and Bluetooth modules.
Verdict? Play on the strength of Apple's potential future component suppliers (TSM, QCOM) and Apple's tried-and-tested current suppliers (CRUS, SKWS, TQNT and BRCM).
Although Apple is known for creating brilliant products, they have yet to wow the customer with their "cloud-based" offerings - remember MobileMe? This time around, iCloud looks like it is poised to break through, because of its deep integration with standard iPhone features (photos, iTunes) and the ever-growing consumer demand to store and access data from anywhere.
With tens of millions of devices getting geared up to use this feature, the iCloud team will need to invest heavily in data centers to store, serve, process and manage the upcoming flood of user content. Apple is known to use storage systems from NetApp (NTAP), EMC and IBM, as well as data warehousing products from Teradata (TDC). Networking components used in the data centers include products from Qlogic (QLGC) and Brocade (BRCD).
Verdict? iCloud is set to launch in the northern hemisphere this fall, and as the system user base grows, we should expect Apple to make more investments in infrastructure and services related to maintaining and expanding their data centers. Consider positions in well-established cloud computing players (NTAP, EMC, IBM, TDC, QLGC and BRCD).
Whenever a proud BlackBerry user is challenged as to why they have not switched to another mobile platform, one of the reasons given is invariably: "BBM". BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM as it is known, is a highly popular instant-messaging system that is limited to BlackBerry users only. Apple's new iMessage feature, coming this fall, is a direct shot at BBM as it will offer the same functionality - except this time, uniting all iPhone users with the latest iOS. While iMessage will not be able to connect to the BBM network, you can be sure that iPhone fans will now have a rebuttal for Research in Motion's (RIMM) vaunted feature and will give RIM fans even more reason to switch.
Verdict? Don't expect the slow-bleed of RIM market share to reverse any time soon. Consider bear calendar spreads on Research in Motion in between now and RIM's next major product release.
Disclosure: I am long AAPL.