It seems everyone is a bull on Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) these days and rightfully so. Apple, as of July of 2011, has more cash lying around than the US government. What's not to love? Everyone from analysts to iPhone users love the stock and it's hard to find a bear amongst the noise. Well, I'm here to tell you I'm a bear on Apple in the long term.
With Steve Jobs at the helm, Apple has completely revolutionized every facet of technology. Jobs was a visionary to say the least and his business savvy was something you don't see even in the best of Fortune 500 companies. One of the biggest things that fueled Apple's growth was its unbelievable level of corporate secrecy about upcoming products. In fact, one of the reasons I don't see Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) becoming the next tech high flyer is because they simply can't replicate Apple's secrecy. That said, I think we're nearing the end of Apple's astronomical growth cycle and here's why.
For one thing, iPhones have saturated the market to their upper limits, in my opinion. The only way to continue making money from them is with newer versions. This has worked so far, but how long will it continue? The differences between the newer generations of the iPhone are getting smaller and smaller. Things such as a higher resolution screen are sold to consumers as major upgrades, when in fact, improvements over time are an industry standard.
Apple has had an advantage to Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android thus far in that they had to develop iOS for one type of phone with very specific hardware. This allows them to optimize it to work smoothly without beefing up the power of the hardware. Android, on the other hand, is developed to work on a million different devices, each with their own hardware capabilities and limitations. This leads to a less smooth experience and longer timeframes for software updates (since phonemakers have to wait for Google to release the update and then modify it to work properly on their devices).
Now, with Android taking up over 50% of the smartphone market, Apple's advantage is dissolving before our eyes. Hardware makers like HTC are rolling out software updates faster and faster as more and more Android devices become available and they're getting much smoother. Finally, Android provides one key advantage that Apple is missing out on: choice. With Android, consumers have the liberty of choosing a handset starting as low as $49.
The iPad is more of the same story. It's the bestselling tablet in the world because it's very smooth and user-friendly, but how long before Android tablets catch up? It's going to get difficult to compete in a landscape where tablets like Asus's Transformer series will likely start to gain traction because of their versatility. What's more, Apple has provided consumers with the perfect time to switch to Android if it decides to change the dock connector for upcoming products. Consumers that may have held back making the switch because of the slew of Apple compatible products they own will have no reason to stick around anymore.
We also have the rumored 7 inch tablet. This sounds like a company reaching for one last breath before finally giving out. I may be burned at the stake for saying this but it seems as though the creative juices are finally running out at Apple. The 7 inch tablet is the middle ground between the iPhone and the iPad. Those who already have the iPhone AND the iPad are unlikely to go out and get a 7 inch tablet because there simply is not any good reason to do so. The only thing that I can see happening is the 7 inch tab cutting into sales of the iPad and iPhone. This is not going to help the company grow.
Unless Apple comes up with something drastically different in its upcoming models of iPads and iPhones, it's likely that consumers will start to get bored and move to Android. If you have friends that have made the switch already, you know what I'm talking about. Android allows users much more freedom over the device they spent hundreds of dollars on.
I don't see Apple's price crossing above $750. In fact, I doubt it willreach $750. I would not be surprised at all to start seeing the price decline gradually as Apple loses ground to Android. The decline may be delayed with the release of iPhone 5 and a 7 inch tablet but that's a temporary fix. With RIM's (RIMM) BlackBerry 10 OS set to debut in January of 2013 competition over the smartphone/tablet market is only heating up. Apple did well in an environment devoid of any other device of similar capacity and had a great run. Now that they have laid the groundwork for the other guys, they're not keeping up with the times. While Android is becoming more powerful and less restrictive, Apple is sticking to its guns with complete control over its app market and mandatory software updates.
Feel free to add your two cents in the comments or strike up a conversation with me about Apple , Google , RIM or anything investing related on twitter!
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.