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Apple might be in trouble after its lackluster keynote for 2018

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, speaks on stage at the end of the Apple Inc product launch event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, U.S., September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, speaks on stage at the end of the Apple Inc product launch event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, U.S., September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Megan Brantley is vice president of research for LikeFolio, which analyzes social media postings to predict shifts in consumer spending.

Apple is buzzing. In August it became the first U.S. company to hit $1 trillion market value. On September 12, all eyes turned to Steve Jobs Theater to see what the creative behemoth would bestow upon consumers waiting to be dazzled.

For insights into consumer reaction to product announcements, LikeFolio measures the immediate reaction on social media. Purchase Intent levels are determined by identifying and measuring tweets from consumers that contain an Apple product related keyword AND a word or phrase indicating they have completed a purchase or will complete a purchase soon. Example: “BRB, going to buy the new iPhone XS”.

Historically, the consumer reaction to the annual Keynote event has been an incredible predictor of $AAPL stock, having predicted the movement of AAPL stock over the following 9 months for five straight years.

Consumer reaction to the 2018 Apple Keynote was lackluster

Image Courtesy LikeFolio
Image Courtesy LikeFolio

Two hours and four products later, the end result was a lower level of purchase intent mentions for Apple products/services than we had seen in either of the two prior years.

The green line on the chart above is a measure of consumer purchase intent of Apple products/services. Purchase intent for the 2018 Apple Keynote event was the lowest measured since 2015.

What does this mean? Frankly, it’s not a good sign for Apple. The last time purchase intent was this low for a Keynote event, Apple sales fell year-over-year for the first time in 13 years.

New product breakdown – Apple Watch 4 steals the show

Apple released 4 new products: iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR and Apple Watch Series 4. How did they fare?

Image Courtesy LikeFolio
Image Courtesy LikeFolio

Apple Watch Series 4 – a major threat to struggling Fitbit

The Apple Watch Series 4 was the clear fan favorite. The new watch boasts FDA cleared heart monitoring features, including the ability to take an EKG and detect an irregular heartbeat. The watch can also detect falls and alert authorities if you need help. It’s like the data-connected lovechild of… Fitbit and Life Alert?

Image courtesy LikeFolio
Image courtesy LikeFolio

Fitbit stock plummeted as Apple revealed that the FDA had cleared significant new features on the Apple Watch. Fitbit is already struggling to keep up with an increased selection of wearable health trackers, as the declining purchase intent data in the chart below demonstrates.

Image Courtesy LikeFolio
Image Courtesy LikeFolio

Consumers often indicated intent to not only buy an Apple Watch for themselves, but also for relatives. Additionally, Consumer Happiness measures jumped following the announcement of new health features, as well as hardware upgrades.

Image Courtesy LikeFolio
Image Courtesy LikeFolio

While the Apple Watch was the most well-received product of the 2018 Keynote, it received the lowest purchase intent scores compared to previous releases. This is likely a symptom of a lack of overall enthusiasm for the event itself.

Image Courtesy LikeFolio
Image Courtesy LikeFolio

iPhone XS, XS MAX – Roses by Another Name

Consumer response to the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR was lackluster at best. These were all a tough follow-up to the iPhone X, the best-selling phone in Apple history. The only substantive upgrades to the iPhone X include a fancy OLED display and some camera tricks.

iPhone X owners are unlikely to drop another grand on a new phone that does the same old tricks. Apple faithful who have been waiting for an update are faced with the decision to splurge on a MAX or save money on the bargain XR… also powerful device.

In addition, a recent competitor is knocking….

Competitor Samsung is on the rise

Image Courtesy LikeFolio
Image Courtesy LikeFolio

Purchase intent levels for Samsung Galaxy devices boomed ahead of the Apple release. Why?

  1. Galaxy phones gave the people what they wanted.

  2. Samsung phones have been waterproof for a while.

  3. Gamers are making the switch via smart gaming partnerships.

Although iPhones maintain a Purchase Intent edge over Samsung Galaxy devices, the growing consumer enthusiasm for Samsung phones is important to monitor. Samsung recently confirmed significant design upgrades for the Galaxy S10 including a FaceID competitor and increased processing speeds. Cutting edge camera integration (triple rear cameras), sizing upgrades, and the return of the fingerprint reader are rumored.

Furthermore, the reveal of the mythical folding Galaxy X could be as early as November 2018. If the Galaxy X lives up to the hype, the newly released iPhone trio may not be enough to sustain dominance.