Forefront Communications

Barron’s: Is Apple’s iPhone XS Max Price Crazy? It’s Working for Investors

MackeyRMS

Sam Belden

Sam Belden

It’s fitting that Apple’s newest and largest iPhone, announced Wednesday, will be called iPhone XS Max. Pushing prices to the max, after all, is the only way Apple is growing iPhone-related sales these days. The new XS Max starts at $1099, making it the most expensive iPhone ever. A 512 GB version of the phone will set you back $1,449. Also fittingly, the new phone will be available in a gold trim.

Apple’s average selling price has gone from $650 last year to an expected $751 in fiscal 2018, according to Visible Alpha consensus data.

There are a few ways to look at the pricing strategy: As my colleague Jack Hough pointed out to me: “That’s still a bargain compared with your $50 electric tooth brush. Think about the time you spend with your phone versus your toothbrush.”

The problem is there’s a shrinking pool of people who want to buy or can afford Apple’s most important product. Unit sales of iPhones are expected to grow just 1% in Apple’s fiscal year ending this month, according to Visible Alpha.

Thanks to the higher prices, total iPhone revenue is still expected to grow 16% this year, to $165 billion.

The strategy is working for investors — Apple is up 37% in the last 12 months — but it’s making Apple’s annual iPhone announcement rather awkward. Apple stock was up 3.1%, to $228.05, by midday on Thursday. The shares had fallen 1.2% on Wednesday, as they often do on product launch days after rising in the days beforehand.

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