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Apple drops unit shipments as it posts fourth-quarter results

As long as it is making money, why worry how may iPhones are out there, the company argues

Apple has posted fourth-quarter revenue of $62.9bn – an increase of 20% year on year.

Its services revenue grew from $7.9bn in the fourth quarter of 2017 to $10bn in the fourth quarter of 2018, a rise of 27%.

The company said iPhone revenue had grown by 29%, thanks to an increase in the average selling price of iPhones from $618 a year ago to $793.

In a transcript of the earnings call posted on the Seeking Alpha financial blogging site, Apple CFO Luca Maestri explained how the recent tie-up with Salesforce would help the company provide a unique experience for users who access the Salesforce app from iOS.

“Together with Apple, Salesforce is redesigning its apps to embrace a native mobile platform with exclusive new features on iOS,” he said. “The companies will also provide tools and resources for millions of Salesforce developers to build their own native apps with a new Salesforce mobile SDK for iOS.”

Maestri also described how the company was supporting enterprise IT through Apple Business Manager, which he said provides a new way for IT teams to deploy Apple devices at scale. “The response from companies around the world has been tremendous, with over 40,000 companies currently enrolled,” he said.

These are the last quarterly results in which Apple will state unit shipments. Explaining this rationale, Maestri said: “The unit sales of iPhones at the top end of the line have been very strong during the September quarter, and that is very important because we are attracting customers to the most recent technologies and features and innovation that we bring into the lineup, but you don’t necessarily see that in the number that is reported.”

When asked to clarify the company’s decision not to publish unit shipments, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “This is a little bit like if you go to the market and you push your cart up to the cashier and he or she says, how many units do you have in there? It doesn't matter a lot how many units there are in terms of the overall value of what’s in the cart.”

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So while iMac unit shipments were down by 2%, iMac revenue grew by 3% to $7.4bn in the fourth quarter. Apple also shipped 15% less iPads than in the fourth quarter of 2017.

The company said it had shipped 46.889 million iPhones in the quarter, up 29% on the equivalent period last year. Revenue from the iPhone accounted for almost 60% ($37bn) of the company’s overall revenue.

“Over the past two months, we’ve delivered huge advancements for our customers through new versions of iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad and Mac as well as our four operating systems,” said Cook, “and we enter the holiday season with our strongest lineup of products and services ever.”

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