There's never a dull moment on Wall Street, especially when new iGadgets hit the shelves and earnings season kicks off in earnest. Let's go over some of the items that will help shape the week ahead once Monday rolls around.
1. The new iPhones will hit shelves: Between the passing of Steve Jobs and the lack of an iPhone 5 announcement, this hasn't been a good week for Apple (AAPL).
Things can only get better, right?
The new iPhone 4S hits retailers next Friday. Was it the flashy, big-screened redesigned iPhone 5 with blazing fast 4G LTE connectivity and NFC hardware to support mobile payments that we all wanted? No. Will folks still be lining up early to make sure that they're the first to own Apple's shiny new smartphone? Of course.
Let's not dismiss the iPhone 4S. An improved dual processor will make the handset a speedster. The beefed up image sensors will mean that you can kiss your stand-alone digital camera goodbye. A new speech-recognition platform will also make this a chatty device as you simply tell your iPhone to set up a wake-up call, scan the area for top-rated restaurants, or check your calendar for scheduling conflicts.
Apple really is raising the bar here, iPhone 5 or not.
2. Sprint gets a shot at stardom: The biggest winner in next week's iPhone 4S release will be Sprint Nextel (S). The country's third-largest wireless carrier joins AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) in taking preorders for the new handset today, but the real test will come a week from today when Sprint actually begins servicing the iconic phone.
Sprint has historically marketed its pricing advantage over its two larger rivals, but its more recent campaigns have attacked AT&T and Verizon for their tiered pricing plans. Sprint is hoping to set itself apart by being the only iPhone 4S carrier to offer unlimited data plans to new customers.
This is a brilliant strategy, because even light eaters love a buffet. However, it can also backfire if it only attracts data hogs that will bog down Sprint's network.
Sprint's arrival is being heralded as a great way for Apple to reach a wider audience with its smartphone, but Sprint shareholders are hoping that the iPhone 4S is just the ticket to return the company to the profitability that has been painfully elusive for years.
3. Googols for Google: When your stock price is hovering above $500, you expect quarterly profits to be beefy numbers. Google (GOOG) won't let you down on that front. Analysts see the search giant earning $8.74 a share when it reports on Thursday, comfortably ahead of the $7.64 a share it posted a year earlier.
However, Google's quarterly conference call will feature questions that likely can't be addressed with simply a big number.
Is Google going to make a play for smaller rival Yahoo (YHOO)?
On the eve of the iPhone 4S debut, will Android need to respond?
Is Google spending too much time in the courtroom and in government hearings lately?
We may not get all of the answers, but the global leader in both paid search and online advertising will still be able to provide a great snapshot of the Internet's health.
4. Holiday toy story preview: It's never too early to begin working on those holiday shopping lists.
Mattel (MAT) reports next Friday, offering investors one last chance to hear from the company before the holidays. Its Let's Rock Elmo hit stores just a few days ago. Is the hefty $70 price tag scaring away buyers?
Mattel's flagship toy lines have been Barbie and Hot Wheels over the years. Are traditional playthings back this season, or are children clamoring for trendy electronic gadgets and video games again this year? If Mattel knows, it will probably tell.
5. Pop goes the world: PepsiCo (PEP) reports on Wednesday.
The world's second-largest soda maker is expected to post improving profitability on Wednesday. Keep in mind that PepsiCo isn't just about its sugary fizz. This is also a giant in salty snacks with its Fritos, Lay's, and Doritos chips. Let's also not forget Gatorade thirst quenchers, Tropicana juices, and Quaker oatmeal.
Looking over the potato chip bags, Gatorade bottles, and Pepsi cans, can you think of a company that is more grateful that the NFL season kicked off on time after this summer's labor woes?
Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not owns shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of PepsiCo, Google, Yahoo, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Mattel, Yahoo, Apple, Google, PepsiCo, and AT&T, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple and a diagonal call position in PepsiCo.
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