Here is Apple’s report card for the three months ending June 30, 2015: revenues of $49.6 billion (up 33 percent year over year, from $37.4 billion), net income of $10.7 billion (up from $7.7 billion during the same three months last year) and a gross margin of 39.7 percent (compared with 39.4 percent in the year-ago quarter). And yet the number that everyone focused on: 47.53 million iPhones sold. That’s just below the 48.7 million iPhones that Wall Street expected Apple to sell. I look at these mostly positive numbers and am confounded by the caning Apple has just taken on the stock market.
If I have learned anything over my long writing career, it’s that it is hard to judge a company and its fortunes by a single data point about a single quarter. Wall Street tends to be either overoptimistic or too pessimistic about a company’s prospects. And it is often wrong. That’s why I am a bit sanguine about Apple’s most recent earnings reports.
Just look at the company’s historic success with the iPhone and you can tell that we are indeed living in strange times! So far Apple has taken down Nokia and left Motorola, HTC and Samsung gasping for air. The profits have not stopped flowing to Cupertino. Apple has reported $42.3 billion in net income so far for the first three quarters of this fiscal year. That’s more than the company’s profits for all of 2012. Its new product (the watch) brought in an estimated billion dollars in revenues during just nine weeks of sales. And yet people are dismissing it as a disaster, perhaps because the company lost money on this new line of business: In an emailed report, UBS estimates the watch had revenues of “$1 billion on 2 million units at a low or negative margin.” It thinks Apple sold 2.2 million watches at an average selling price of around $437, which makes it a billion dollar product line.
Meanwhile the slowdown in iPad sales is balanced by the strength in the traditional computing business, especially in a tough PC market that has impacted pretty much all players. Apple’s Mac product line continues to hold its own and is growing its share of the PC market. Apple sold 10.9 million iPads, down 18 percent from the same quarter a year ago. In comparison, it sold 4.8 million Macs during the most recent quarter, a 9 percent year-over-year gain. During the same period this year, IDC says the global PC market’s unit volume was down 11.8 percent.
I assume the big Apple sell-off happened because the algorithms weren’t looking good: The company’s quarter and outlook met consensus expectations, except for the soft iPhone number of 47.5 million units. Does the market think Apple can’t push past the total 193 million phones it sold during calendar year 2014? During the first two quarters of 2015, Apple has already sold 109 million iPhones, and with new models on the horizon, the pessimism is confounding.
If people were anxious about Apple’s terrible record at adapting to the internet-based services era, then this pessimism would be warranted. But when it comes to hardware and the iPhone in particular, I don’t understand the doom and gloom. That said, there is no doubt that Apple’s fortunes and net income are closely tied to the iPhone. It isn’t the first time I have shared this opinion (iPhone, the behemoth and All About That iPhone 6+), and these two charts only reinforce that argument.