As the story goes, the young Isaac Newton was sitting in his garden when an apple fell onto his head and, in a stroke of brilliant insight, he suddenly invented the theory of gravity.1 The story is almost certainly embellished, though it has found its place in popular culture, and has been taught to generations of young receptive science students ever since.
Winding the clock forward to 2015 brings us to a whole new and different kind of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). On January 29th Apple became the most profitable company in history. This is an incredible achievement. Examining how Apple has achieved this milestone is even more amazing.
Apple’s sales and profitability are driven by sales of the iPhone (currently 69% of revenues), and more specifically by the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. During the last quarter, Apple sold a staggering 74.5 million iPhones. This equates to 830,000 devices per day or 35,000 per hour for 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. This represents a 46% increase in iPhone sales year-on-year, while simultaneously increasing the iPhone average selling price by $50 to $687 per unit. For reference, average smartphone prices have declined from $440 in 2010 to an estimated $275 in 2015. Apple defies gravity… again, indeed.
To quote from Motley Fool2 “That Apple can deliver both massive sales volume and rising prices in the context of rapidly declining industry prices speaks wonders about Apple’s competitive differentiation and the booming popularity of its new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models”. Many congratulations to Tim Cook and the whole Apple team on this achievement.
As companies get bigger, continued rapid growth gets much, much harder. It is therefore tempting to assume that Apple’s incredible performance cannot be sustained. The Economist sums the problem up well in “Apple Reigns Supreme”.3
However, Apple’s recent history suggests otherwise. Apple will launch its much awaited (and much hyped) Apple Watch in April. Will this new device completely redefine the watch and show us all the critical things that we have been missing until now, or, will it fade as a niche luxury product that only appeals to the wealthy and tech obsessed?
No one knows for sure. We will have to wait and see. However, I suspect that we will be reading similar glowing coverage later this year as Apple Defies Gravity… Again.