Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Are Smartphone Sales Tied to Search Interest?

Are you one of the many smartphone users?
According to recent Nielsen statistics there is a great chance you are, with 40% of mobile phone users now sporting a smartphone. Over the last year, we have watched the Street obsess over the latest and greatest smartphone technology in the hopes catching the next big thing.
In this article I would like to highlight an interesting investment tool I have started using as another component of investment analysis - search interest data from the worlds leading search engine, Google. It seems likely that revenues will be increasingly tied to the online interest for a product or company, and therefore investors may be able to use this data as a leading indicator of growth.
Let's first take a look at an up and coming player in the space, Nokia (NYSE: NOK) , the leading manufacturer of Windows operating phones with its diverse line of Lumia offerings. While the company's market share, 3%, has declined drastically over the last decade, it really can't get much worse in this regard. Lets first take a look at the search interest regarding the keywords "Nokia Lumia" on Google:
While the data may be fairly limited in comparison to other keywords, it paints a good picture nonetheless. A score of 100, represents the highest monthly search interest for the keywords on Google. Just last month, the company generated the highest level of interest for its Lumia line, While I cannot say for certain today, I feel the rising interest will equate to rising demand, thus helping the company's market share in the months ahead.
Next up, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) , the manufacture of the world renowned iPhone. I'm sure most of us are aware of the wild ride shareholders have experience over the last year as a result of slowing growth and dampened optimism regarding the company's future innovation. The following diagram shows the search interest regarding the keyword "iPhone" on Google:
Since the all time highs seen last September, interest has declined steadily amid the volatility seen on the Street. Google estimates this month's search interest for the iPhone will come in at 48, the lowest level in a couple years, not a great sign for Apple shareholders. I do feel interest in the company will pick up into the launch of the new models later this year.
Last up, Samsung Electronics (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF ) , the manufacture of the line of popular Galaxy products. The company just reported a strong second quarter in the face of high expectations. While some analysts were slightly disappointed with the quarter, the flagship Galaxy S4 did perform well with over 10 million units sold in just the 27 days after its launch earlier this year. The following diagram shows the search interest regarding the keyword "Galaxy S4" on Google:
While the data set is even more limited than the previous two, the search interest has remained relatively stable since the product launch in April. The highest level of interest was seen in May with the score of 100, followed by a 92 last month and a projected 89 in July. Going forward, I will be watching to see how well search interest holds up in preparation for my third quarter estimates.
Wrap-up
While search interest data may not be a proven leading indicator of revenues at this time, it seems likely that search interest data would be in high correlation to demand, thus greatly impacting revenues. Nokia and Samsung have experienced strong interest for their new lines of products in recent months while Apple has experienced dwindling interest since the launch of its IPhone 5 last year.

I originally published this article on my blog at the Motley Fool!

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