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Apple quarterly results: cutting through the hype

Apple quarterly results: cutting through the hype

Apple’s quarterly results and conference calls are always a goldmine for tech watchers. Not only do we get a plethora of sales stats and impressive financial figures, there’s always some excellent sniping from Apple execs, whether it’s slating Google’s Android or reinforcing Cupertino’s reputation for extreme bullishness.

But amid the stats and chat, there’s also plenty of hype. And while straight-up reporting of the figures is vital, it’s also essential to place the numbers in context. The iPhone sales figures are a case in point. Up 142 per cent year-on-year, with 20.34 million sold.

That’s a lot of handsets, but the stat needs to be viewed with regard to the same period last year.

iphone 4 dual

At the same point in 2010, it was already well known that Apple would be using its Worldwide Developers’ Conference in June to refresh the iPhone. Gizmodo’s leak had not only taken the tech world by storm, it had also crossed over to the mainstream, informing regular as well as tech-focused consumers.

The run-up to the release of the iPhone 4 saw sales slip in Q3 2010 to 8.4 million, down from 8.75 per cent on Q2 2010. That’s a relatively minor drop, but it does suggest that Apple’s surge in the quarter just gone shouldn’t solely be viewed in terms of the stats its released today, not to mention the fact that there’ll be no new iPhone on shelves until September 2011.

That means the device still had some cachet in Q3 2011, whereas in Q3 2010 that perhaps wasn’t the case with the iPhone 3GS. It’s also vital to remember that Apple always compares its results to the same quarter a year before, never the preceding one.

That way its figures nearly always look stunning. The iPad is a slightly different proposition. Sales are up 183 per cent to 9.25 million. That certainly proves that other tablets can’t even get close to Apple right now. CFO Tim Cook used last night’s conference call to slate Microsoft and tell the world Apple had sold more iPads than PCs over the relevant time period.

ipad new york times

The BlackBerry PlayBook is struggling, amid reports of customer experience problems and the Motorola Xoom has been slashed in price. Only the Samsung Galaxy Tab range comes close and even then it’s nowhere near the iPad’s sales figure.

In fact, the 9.25 million is almost twice that of the 4.69 million sold in Q2. But it must be remembered that the arrival of the iPad 2 in Q3 has driven this spike. It’ll be fascinating to see what the Q4 stats, out in October, will look like.

Will Apple be able to break its own record? Seeing as supplies have been constrained until this week, that’s likely. There’s no denying Apple’s latest results will give Google and Research in Motion (RIM) plenty to chew over.

But it’s also important to realise the comparisons and hype Apple builds can distract from the realities. Things are going well at Cupertino, no doubt. But perhaps not as stunningly in all areas as Steve Jobs would like you to believe.

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