Bank of America Has Some Good News for Apple, and It Comes From China

Silver (or rose gold) linings.

Why Investors Are Getting Nervous Over Apple's iPhone

"Struggling" would be one way to describe Apple stock's recent performance.

Shares of the company, a stock found in many investors' portfolios, dipped below $100 last week after a clutch of Wall Street banks cut estimates for iPhone sales. Flash forward, however, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch has issued some (rare) good news for the tech giant that it says it has detected coming from a very important market: China.

According to a recent BofAML survey of more than 1,000 respondents in China, the iPhone remains the country's most popular phone brand and there is a good chance that people who lack iPhones will switch over in the next couple of years.

"The survey indicates that a large portion of respondents own both iPhones and iPads, suggesting the ecosystem is healthy and sticky as many Apple users own more than 1 type of Apple product," analysts led by Wamsi Mohan said.

Apple has been increasing its phone market share in Asia, and this appears likely to continue, the analysts said. "When asked which brand respondents would likely purchase when buying their next (or first) smartphone, 39 percent of the respondents said that they would buy Apple next. Huawei was the next most popular brand (preferred by 25 percent of the respondents), while Samsung was preferred by 17 percent of the respondents."

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Despite some iPhone users saying they plan to switch to a different brand when purchasing the next phone, Apple could still emerge as an overall winner. "Of the respondents who currently own an iPhone, about 19 percent plan to move to a different brand of phone with their next purchase. However, while this attrition rate seems high, Apple can yet be a net share gainer. Of the respondents who currently do not have an iPhone, an even higher percentage (32 percent) intend to buy an iPhone next, which bodes well for Apple iPhone sales," the analysts said.

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In addition, the Bank of America survey showed that many smartphone users in China will be buying phones at a rather rapid pace. Right now, about 37 percent of survey participants have phones that are less than a year old, and 38 percent have smartphones that are from one to two years old, yet 57 percent plan to buy their next (or first) smartphone within a year. Only 6 percent said they would wait three or more years. 

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Apple shares were up 1.2 percent on Tuesday morning, compared to a 0.28 percent rise in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index.

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