Apple's iPhone 4S, iPad Drive Record Quarter

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2012-01-24 Print this article Print

Apple's iPhone 4S and iPad helped drive a record quarter for the company, with $46.33 billion in revenues.

Apple sold 37.04 million iPhones and 15.43 million iPads during its fiscal 2012 first quarter, which ended Dec. 31. That suggests a particularly strong holiday selling season for the company; the iPhone number, for example, was well above the 30.2 million units predicted by many analysts.  

Overall, quarterly revenue totaled $46.33 billion, with a net profit of $13.06 billion. That's a record for Apple, and a noticeable uptick from the $26.74 billion in revenue and $6 billion in profit recorded during the year-ago quarter.

Apple also sold 5.2 million Macs during the quarter, an increase of 26 percent over the year-ago quarter. According to the company, half those Macs were sold to customers who'd never owned an Apple-built PC before. Sales of iPods decreased 21 percent over the year-ago quarter, continuing a longstanding downward trend for the handheld media player; Apple executives have regularly attributed that decline to cannibalization by the iPhone.  

Apple launched its most recent smartphone, the iPhone 4S, in October. Although the device bears significant outward similarities to its predecessor, the iPhone 4, it includes new features such as Siri, a "digital personal assistant." A number of analysts, including Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, had predicted that the iPhone 4S would prove a strong seller throughout the holiday season; Apple's official data seems to have borne out that proposition.

Despite price cuts to older versions of the iPhone, the iPhone 4S was the company's bestselling variant of the smartphone. During a Jan. 24 earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook attributed the iPhone's robust sales numbers to a combination of what he called "breathtaking customer reception" as well as pent-up demand from a particularly long gap between new iPhone releases.

In response to an analyst question, Cook spent some time defending the iPad's position in the increasingly crowded tablet space. "We don't really see these limited-function tablets and e-readers as being in the same category," he said, alluding to Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet, an Android-based device that proved to be a strong holiday seller. "I don't think people who want an iPad will settle for a limited function."

He added: "Last year was supposed to be the year of the tablet, and I think most people will agree it was the year of the iPad, for the second year in a row. So we're going to continue to innovate like crazy in this area."

Probed by another analyst about Apple's strategy for the living room, Cook suggested that while Apple TV-a palm-sized device designed to stream content to the user's television-had performed well during the quarter, he considered the initiative a "hobby." Predictably, he neglected to discuss Apple's future strategy in that area, which (according to scuttlebutt) might include actual television sets either in late 2012 or early 2013.   

Apple executives regularly decline to comment about the company's upcoming projects. Nonetheless, the rumor mill suggests that the next iPad, possibly with a higher-resolution screen than the first two iterations, will make an appearance within the next few months; in addition, the next iPhone-colloquially dubbed "iPhone 5" by the tech media-could debut in the summer or fall.

Later in 2012, Apple will face significant competition in the form of tablets running Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8. Various manufacturers also continue to produce Google Android smartphones, which collectively have managed to seize significant parts of the overall market.

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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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