Apple's latest iPhone pre-order data is 'better than feared,' Morgan Stanley says

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Apple CEO Tim Cook holds a new iPhone 15 Pro during the 'Wonderlust' event at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 12, 2023. 

Loren Elliott | Reuters

Lead time and pre-orders for Apple's latest iPhone are "better than feared," Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a note on Monday.

Lead times for the iPhone 15 Pro Max are averaging five to six weeks, the analysts wrote, "the longest of any model launched in the last 7 years." And reports from Chinese news agencies "suggest solid early pre-order demand for the iPhone 15," they added, despite investor concerns that have focused on China.

"While it's far too early to call the cycle, these data points are encouraging, especially given such extreme negative investor sentiment, which has caused Apple to underperform the market by 7 points since headlines of Chinese government bans emerged on September 6th," the analysts wrote, referring to reports that the Chinese government had barred officials from bringing iPhones to government offices or using them for work.

A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson last week denied that the government has instituted a policy banning the purchase or use of foreign phone brands like Apple.

Morgan Stanley said the lead time for the latest iPhone line in the U.S. is a reflection of "both supply constraints and strong early demand." In China, the lead time and pre-order data are a positive surprise given the earlier reports of a possible ban and the strength of Chinese phone maker Huawei, the analysts said.

The firm has an overweight rating on Apple's stock with a $215 price target.

"If iPhone 15 lead time and pre-order data continue to surprise to the upside, and/or if iPhone builds remain stable, we'd expect to see a short-term recovery in Apple shares," the analysts wrote.

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