Best and worst Apple analysts: Q4 2018

In Apple 3.0’s final Earnings Smackdown with unit sales, the indies took seven of the top 10 spots.

A tip of the hat to:

  • Robert Paul Leitao, founder of the Braeburn Group of independent Apple investors, whose estimates for top and bottom lines gave him a well-deserved first-place finish.
  • Bernstein’s Toni Sacconaghi, who makes his first appearance in the top 10 with best estimates in EPS, iPhone ASP and Services.
  • Asymco’s Horace Dediu, the once and future king of Apple analysts, with best estimates in Revenue, ASP and iPad unit sales.

A wag of the finger at:

  • BTIG’s Walter Piecyk, for underestimating Apple’s revenue by $2.7 billion (4.3%).
  • Morgan Stanley’s Katy Huberty, for overestimating Apple’s earnings per share by $0.56 (19%).
  • Piper Jaffray’s Michael Olson, for underestimating the iPhone’s average selling price by $84. (10.6%).

Below: My best-and-worst list, ranked by the average error in top-and-bottom lines, (pros in blue and the amateurs in green). Note that I’m no longer ranking analysts by their estimates for Unit Sales, Services, Other Products and the rest. Let the new translucency begin.

best worst q4 2018

Click to enlarge.

Finally, a color-coded spreadsheet that shows, in each category, best and second-best estimates (in bright and dull green) and worst and second-worst (in bright red and pink). Corrections appreciated.

best worst q4 2018

Click to enlarge. 

My take: When I started this exercise in 12 years ago, iPhone, iPod and Mac unit sales were the best way to judge Apple’s performance, and by that measure the bloggers were regularly clobbering the pros. What metrics should I track going forward? When the dust settles, I’ll open a space where we can discuss the options.


  1. David Drinkwater said:
    Congratulations, RPL!

    November 2, 2018
    • Robert Paul Leitao said:

      Thank you.

      This was a very challenging quarter for analysts (pros and independents) to forecast. Moving forward, developing quarterly estimates won’t get easier, but with the announced changes in reporting, the information available to analysts and investors will get better.

      November 3, 2018
  2. Bruce Oran said:
    What I do not see discussed at all and I believe is the driving factor in not giving out a phone count, is that Tim Cook is trying to refocus Wall Street from looking at Apple as a hardware company, only relying on iPhone revenue, but that as the multifaceted company that it is, relying on hardware, software, services, media, transportation, finance, etc. Apple is telling us that they no longer intend to live or die by the iPhone. By this one move, they are forcing analysts to take a step back and look at the conglomerate.

    November 2, 2018
  3. Robert Varipapa said:
    Might be helpful to report analysts guidance next go round as that seems to be more important

    November 2, 2018
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      Gather analyst estimates as Apple gives guidance and results:

      Gross Margin Percent
      Operating Expense
      Other Income/Expense
      Tax Rate

      for the current quarter, and guidance for the following quarter.

      November 2, 2018

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