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Apple logs record smartphone shipments; Cook sees "lots of headroom for growth" in Latin America

With Q4 results, the company took the market's top spot from Samsung, increased its active installed base to 1.65 billion devices and its paying subscribers to 620 million

A man stands in front of a wall of iPhones cases in the new Apple flagship store on its opening day in Sanlitun in Beijing, China, July 17, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter/ File Photo
  • iPhone’s successful strategy was also what pushed the company’s revenue;
  • Apple’s sales increased in all geographic sectors;
  • Besides China, the company’s sales also grew in Japan (33.1%), Europe (17.3%), and the “Rest of Asia Pacific” region (12.3%). In the Americas, the company registered an 11.9% increase in revenue.
  • The company now has an active installed base of 1.65 billion devices, compared with 1.5 billion devices a year ago – 1 billion are iPhones, 100 million more than in 2019.

Apple‘s smartphone shipments jumped 22% to record levels in the 2020’s last quarter, making it the world’s biggest seller. An expanded number of models and a new look for the iPhone 12 lineup, Apple’s first 5G-enabled devices, tapped pent up demand for upgrades, especially in China. Shipments hit 90.1 million phones, a record for any quarter, giving it a global market share of 23.4%, data from research firm IDC showed.

iPhone’s successful strategy was also what pushed the company’s revenue. The company also posted strong sales of its Mac laptops and iPads in the quarter, driven by consumers working, learning, and playing from home during the pandemic. Apple’s revenue for the quarter ended Dec. 26 rose 21% to $111.44 billion. Earnings per share rose to $1.68 from $1.25, beating Wall Street targets, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Sales of iPhones were $65.60 billion and beat a record set three years ago.

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Apple’s sales increased in all geographic sectors. Besides China, the company’s sales also grew in Japan (33.1%), Europe (17.3%), and the “Rest of Asia Pacific” region (12.3%). In the Americas, the company registered an 11.9% increase in revenue.

Without giving specific figures for India and Latin America in its earnings report, Chief Executive Tim Cook said, during the conference with analysts, that sales “doubled” in India 2020 and also that in both regions, Apple’s market share is “low enough to offer lots of headroom for growth.”

“In China, Apple seized the perfect opportunity to capture Huawei’s market share in the high end, when the latter has essentially not enough supply even though demand for the brand is still there,” said Nicole Peng, who tracks China’s smartphone market at Canalys. Revenue in Greater China, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, surged 57%.

“We had two of the top three selling smartphones in urban China,” Cook told Reuters in an interview, adding that upgraders, in particular, had set an all-time record in China.

Apple’s wearables and accessories segment, which includes the Apple Watch and AirPods product lines, hit $12.97 billion in revenue. Apple in December released the AirPods Max, a $550 set of over-ear wireless headphones, with shipment dates stretching months into the future within hours of the product’s launch. Cook said short supplies of the AirPods Max could continue into the company’s current fiscal second quarter.

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Apple ahead again of Samsung and Huawei

As is often the case in the fourth quarter when it launches new products, Apple took the top spot from Samsung. The South Korean firm saw a 6.2% year-on-year increase to 73.9 million devices, giving it a market share of 19.1%. Huawei, unsurprisingly, suffered the most pain, with shipments tumbling a record 42.4% to 32.3 million.

The Chinese tech powerhouse has been battered after the previous U.S. administration blacklisted it on national security grounds, preventing overseas companies from supplying it with key parts including semiconductors.

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Huawei is now in early-stage talks to sell its premium smartphone brands P and Mate, two people with direct knowledge of the matter have said, a move that could see the company eventually exit from the high-end smartphone-making business. The company has denied such a plan.

According to IDC, Huawei now ranks 5th compared with the No. 2 rankings it had only two quarters earlier. Research firms Counterpoint and Canalys, which also released data on Thursday, pegged Huawei at No. 6, marking the first time in years that it has fallen out of the top five in their rankings.

China’s Xiaomi, the No. 3 seller, saw its shipments soar 32% while shipments for fourth-ranked Oppo climbed 10.7%, according to IDC.

An Apple network of monetization potential still little explored

Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri told investors that the company now has an active installed base of 1.65 billion devices, compared with 1.5 billion devices a year ago – 1 billion are iPhones, 100 million more than in 2019.

The company now has over 620 million paying subscribers on its platform, ahead of its goal to have 600 million subscribers by the end of 2020. The services segment also includes sales from Apple’s App Store, whose billing practices have become a flashpoint of conflict with Fortnite creator Epic Games and whose privacy rules have ticked off a public spat with Facebook.

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