Apple Releases iOS Update
Apple has released a new iOS update for its iPhone 3G, iPhone 4 and iPad devices designed to fix an inherent security flaw within the previous version. REUTERS

Investors watching to see if Apple's stock gets the same pop Tuesday evening when the company's earnings are reported that Google's stock got last week when it's earnings were reported may be disappointed. Apple's quarterly numbers are expected to surprise and delight just as Google's did, but its stock may not react the same way.

After Google showed surprising increases in quarterly revenue and profits last week, the company's stock shot up $70 per share in after-hours trading, and almost three trading days later that increase has found support. But Apple's stock is trading differently than Google's was in advance of its quarterly earnings announcement, and that could make a key difference in investor reaction to Apple's earnings report.

After a dismal June showing, Apple's stock has been on the rise heading into its earnings announcement, slated for Tuesday after the closing market bell. Even with Google's big pop after that company's strong second quarter earnings, Apple's stock has outperformed Google's stock in July, preceding its quarterly earnings announcement.

For Google, expectations were low. Analysts and investors assumed heavy spending by Google was not yet paying off, and that the tmie to buy was still in the future. But when Google showed differently, that it was earning new revenue in new areas and in larger sums than most any expected, the company's stock popped.

While Google's stock was far off it's all-time highs when its strong earnings announcement was made, Apple's stock hovers very close to its all-time highs, trading Tuesday afternoon before its fiscal third quarter earnings announcement at up $1.16 to $374.95, near a 52-week and all-time high of $378.65.

Therefore, as investor expectations were low for Google, it was easier for the company to surprise and delight investors with a strong earnings report, making the stock pop. With Apple, investors have revealed high expectations, meaning that typically more will be required from Apple to impress investors, making its stock pop Tuesday in after-hours trading once its earnings report is in.

Also, there's the notion that Apple's stock has already benefited from Google's surprising numbers. Many short strategists got out of Apple's stock once Google's strong quarterly results came in, boosting the price, and many bulls got in, boosting the price. Thus, there may not be much trading room left for Apple's stock to advance forward when the numbers are reported Tuesday.

Still, some analysts think Apple's stock has a long way to go. They think it's under priced, even after recent advances, and they think Apple's earnings report for the fiscal third quarter and into the near-term future will be strong. They cite news that Apple recently passed other personal computer vendors in the U.S. to reach third place in personal computer sales and that iPhones and iPads have been selling beyond expectations as reasons the company's earnings may be very strong.

In June, investors were apparently spooked by competition from Google, antsy over how quick Apple can get new its new iPhone to market, and worried over the health and future involvement possibilities from CEO Steve Jobs, who's been on medical leave. Jobs is battling a rare form of cancer and is taking his third leave of absence since 1994.

Apple's stock price got back on the move in July, though, and a JPMorgan analyst said recently investor's should get ready for the return of the wow factor.

JPMorgan's Mark Moskowittz says investors should get ready for Apple's 'wow factor' to come back to the stock. Moskowitz raised his third quarter earnings per share estimates on Apple to $6.58, from a previous estimate of $5.55 per share. He's forecasting a revenue increase of $27.42 billion, up from a previous estimate of $24.80.

Moskowitz writes in a research note that sales of Apple's popular iPhone are soaring. He has raised his estimate of Apple iPhone sales to 19.6 million units for the third quarter, up from his prior estimate of 17.6 million units.

Our research inputs indicate that iPhone shipments exhibited no signs of a slowdown, Moskowitz writes. Plus, we expect the momentum to continue, driven by the looming iPhone 4-plus refresh.

Moskowitz also thinks Apple's improving prices paid for manufacturing components for the iPhone and other products will contribute to a higher profit margin. He's increased that for the third quarter to 39.8 percent from a prior estimate of 38.2 percent.

Such positive insight matches with that of ISI Group's Lamba, who sees potential upside from higher-than-expected iPhone sales from Apple by more than one million units, and potential upside from higher-than-expected iPad sales by more than one million units. If that happens, Apple's revenue could be pushed as high as $26.38 for the quarter.

Lamba maintains a Buy rating on Apple, with a $425 price target on the company's shares.

The second-largest company in the S&P 500 behind Exxon, Apple has been a good investment in recent years, not counting the bust moments of 2008 when most every publicly traded U.S. equity got clobbered. But since 1997, when Steve Jobs returned from a hiatus as company CEO, Apple's stock has increased from a $5.48 split-adjusted price to today's trading price of more than $375 per share.