Apple's new iPhones don't wow Wall Street but the 5C is cheap enough for China Mobile

09/10/2013 5:18 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

Wall Street hasn’t been impressed by Apple’s new product event today. Shares closed down $11.53 or 2.28% today. Wall Street heard pretty much what it expected to hear and sold down the shares because Apple didn’t announce any big new feature that hadn’t been priced into the recent rally in the shares.

But I heard what I wanted to hear from Apple CEO Tim Cook.

First, the new iPhones, the 5S and the 5C, will launch in China on September 20, the same day as the phone goes on sale in the United States and most European countries. (This is the first time China gets a new iPhone at the same time as the United States.) Japan’s NTT/Docomo will sell the new 5C phone as well.

Second, the new 5C, the cheaper of the two new models, will be cheap enough for China Mobile (CHL) to sell. The prices for the phone with its colorful plastic cover, better camera, and improved audio was announced today as $99 for the 16 gigabyte model and $199 for 32 gigabytes (on a two-year contract.) I think that’s cheap enough to give Apple access to the 800 million customers of China Mobile and NTT/Docomo. That access, given Apple’s slipping market share in China, is critical to Apple.

Am I totally happy with what I heard today?

No.

I would have liked a definite announcement of a deal between Apple and China Mobile. (Maybe we’ll get that tomorrow at Apple’s China event.)

I would have liked a big whizz bang new feature for the 5S rather than important but more subtle improvements to the iPhone’s camera, SIRI, motion sensor, and processor. (The 5S gets a new 64-bit A7 processor—the 5C uses the older A6—that allow apps, video, and graphics to run faster.)

The smartphone market has become very, very competitive and consumers are getting harder and harder to impress.

But the crucial part of this iPhone update, for investors, will be the ability of the 5C to claw back market share in China from Android phones produced by domestic Chinese companies (and Samsung.) To know whether the 5C is up to the job, we’ll have to wait for reports on how the consumer market reacts to Apple’s new price points, the feel of the plastic case, the 4-inch Retina display, and the line up of colors.

Full disclosure: I don’t own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. When in 2010 I started the mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund http://jubakfund.com/ , I liquidated all my individual stock holdings and put the money into the fund. The fund did own shares of Apple as of the end of June. For a complete list of the fund’s holdings as of the end of June see the fund’s portfolio at http://jubakfund.com/about-the-fund/holdings/

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