26 March, 2014
© 2014 J. M. Manness
The beauty of Apple’s (AAPL), from an investor’s point of view, is that they have, over the last fourteen years created new gadgets that have each become almost a necessity in our lives. For over a year now we have been hearing rumors of a forthcoming iWatch. We hear rumors of sapphire displays, curved displays, biometrics, health sensors, and more. While evidence mounts for some of these rumors, we are all unsure as to what it will bring, if it comes at all. For the investor, however, the specific features are less important than what this new product will contribute to the bottom line. In this article I will analyze what we can expect from price points. In a companion article I will see if we can come up with some idea as to the market for such a device. Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) has recently released its smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear that runs the Android operating system by Google (GOOG). It has a price of $299, which seems like a reasonable price to expect from Apple. Apple is famous for their high margins so let’s see if Apple can match that price given the margins they want. To do so, I have used the build of materials costs as estimated by IHS. The table shows the IHS figures for the iPhone 5s, and my estimates for correlating costs for the new iWatch.
Processor – A8w
One thing that should be discussed is the processor. I believe that a new processor is being developed to going to this product. I am calling it the A8w. The reason for this processor is that they need a processor which is powerful yet small and has very low power consumption. So this will be produced on the new 20 nm chip processing technology. The regular A8 will be for larger products so the A8w will be a much smaller cousin. In particular, the smaller chip Will have greatly reduced graphics processing systems built in. Additionally, it will be beneficial to have the chip running a 64-bit architecture so that Apple will need only one iOS code-base. (it will, of course, be only a subset of the full iOS.) To my mind, this is one very important reason that the iWatch is not yet out. It is waiting for a processor that is capable and power efficient and small enough for the application. This is one thing Apple does well (at least most of the time): note release things before the proper technology is available.
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As you can see, the total projected cost Will be quite a bit less than the iPhone. Figure I come up with is a total BOM cost of just $71. If we want the same gross margin for the iWatch as for the iPhone 5s (16 GB), then it can sell for as little as $249, fifty dollars less than the Galaxy Gear. Of course, this does not including the development costs which must be exorbitant. So perhaps they will stay with $299 anyway. Of course it maybe possible that there are other expenses than I have not anticipated. Still, this seems a reasonable estimate of what it will cost to build the new iWatch.
Apple’s stock price is stalled. Revenue growth has slowed significantly from earlier years, and many investors do not see Apple as a growth stock any longer. While many argue that Apple is undervalued even for current revenues and income, others see a danger of the iCompany losing even more ground to competition, if not in unit sales, then to decreasing margins. New devices are critical to the stock price. Outside of the leadership, no one knows for sure if an iWatch is in the works or not, and if so then what features or price structure it will have. Here I have shown at least that Apple could produce an iWatch at a competitive price and keep its high margins. A follow up post will cover just how many iWatches we could expect to see sold, and how much that would add to revenue.
UPDATE: 25 Oct., 2014
[I have fixed a few typos above.]
This was, of course, early speculation. I was right about a separate processor (yes I originally meant 64-bit since I said it would be the same.) Of course we do not know if this is true until Chipworks pries it open.
I think my cost analysis is reasonable accurate but only for the electronics. The added costs for the housing, etc. will be additional. Still, I think Apple will not be doing badly with their base price of $349, and higher priced models will definitely contribute to the bottom line. Of course this does not account for development costs which assuredly have been astronomical.
The apparent success of Apple Pay may turn out to be a huge driver for the Apple Watch.
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