The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Apple Inc., AT&T Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp., Verizon Communications Inc. and Align Technology

CHICAGO, Sept. 14, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include: Apple Inc. (AAPL), AT&T Inc. (T), Sprint Nextel Corp. (S), Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Align Technology (ALGN).


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Here are highlights from the Analyst Blog:

Apple's Long-Awaited iPhone 5 Arrives

After a prolonged wait, Apple Inc. (AAPL) finally unveiled its iPhone 5 yesterday. The latest version of iPhone is much thinner and lighter than its predecessors. The iPhone 5 is powered by Apple's new A6 processor chips and runs on iOS 6, ensuring faster processing speeds.

As expected, iPhone 5 supports 4GLTE and DC-HSDPA wireless connectivity that provides faster speeds for browsing, downloading and streaming content over the Internet. The iPhone 5 will be available on AT&T Inc. (T), Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) networks.

With a weight of 3.95 oz, iPhone 5 is much lighter than its predecessors - iPhone 4S (4.9 oz) and iPhone 4 (4.8 oz). Moreover, the new iPhone is 18% slimmer than the earlier version with its 7.9 mm anodized aluminum body. In terms of screen size, iPhone 5 has a 4-inch 1136-by-640 Retina display, which is bigger and has a better resolution than iPhone 4S and iPhone 4, which had a 3.5-inch 960-by-640 Retina display.

Though Apple has not altered the 8 mega pixel rear camera in iPhone 5, the front camera is upgraded from VGA to much improved 1.2 mega pixel with 720p video. iPhone 5's Siri has new features and supports more languages.

Apart from these, iPhone 5 has a new connector called Lightning, an upgraded version from the earlier 30-pin connector. However, customers would have to buy new accessories to use the iPhone 5. Moreover, Apple has upgraded its standard Apple Earphones to Apple EarPods. EarPods are small earbuds with built-in remote and mic. 

iPhone 5 is available in white and sliver or black and slate colors. Customers can preorder their iPhone 5 from September 14, 2012 and will have to shell out $199 for the 16GB model, $299 for the 32GB model and $399 for the 64GB model in the U.S. The phone will be available in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the U.K. starting September 21, 2012. iPhone 5 will be available in 22 more countries from September 28, 2012.

We note that several new features of iPhone 5 are already present in some of the smartphones available in the market. However, considering the loyal customer base and international expansion plans, we remain optimistic about Apple's long-term growth. iPhones constitute a significant portion of Apple's revenues and we believe that the performance of iPhone 5 will act as a major catalyst for the company's forthcoming quarters.

We believe that the new iPhone could strengthen Apple's position in the smartphone market. According to IDC, in the second quarter of 2012, Apple's share in the smartphone market slid to 16.9% from 18.8% in the year-ago quarter. Over the same period, Samsung almost doubled its market share to 32.6% from 17.0%. The new iPhone 5 will definitely increase the Apple's chances to regain some lost ground.

However, the impending lawsuits and stiff competition from Samsung with its wide range of products in the smartphone and tablet markets will remain an overhang on the stock going forward.

We have a Neutral recommendation over the long term (6-12 months). Currently, Apple has a Zacks #3 Rank, which implies a Hold rating in the near term.

Align Speaks on Growth Prospects

Recently, Align Technology (ALGN) participated at the Morgan Stanley Healthcare Conference where the Vice President, Finance and Chief Financial Officer of Align, Kenneth Arola clearly spoke about the company's key focus areas and upcoming plans. 

According to Arola, Align, a public company for the last 12-13 years, has been greatly successful in the malocclusion market, serving nearly 2 million patients. In this time, Align delivered 75 to 80 million aligners, the company's class II medical devices and generated more than $2 billion in revenues.

Currently the company is focusing on four important areas of development. The first point of focus is to introduce clinical innovations to help doctors work more efficiently. The second focus point of the company is educating customers about the know-hows of Invisalign, the company's core product.

Invisalign is an exclusive method to treat malocclusion based on a series of doctor-prescribed, custom manufactured, clear plastic removable orthodontic aligners. The Invisalign system offers a range of treatment options, specialized services, and proprietary software for treatment visualization and comprises several phases. Arola claims that educating patients would improve Align's customer base, as this would help patients understand the capabilities of Invisalign, thus pushing doctors toward using the product.

The third emphasis of the company is customer experience, which will help the doctors to prepare ClinCheck approvals. Last but not the least is Align's strategy of international expansion. Primarily, the company plans to improve the adoption of Invisalign in the core markets of Europe and China. A year back, the company had opened some offices in four major cities across these regions.

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