Apple Posts Record Earnings Driven by 128 Percent Surge in iPhone Sales

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 24: An iPhone, MacBook Air and iPad 2 are displayed at an Apple Store on January 24, 2012 in San Francisco, California.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

UPDATE: To be clear, this is the most profitable quarter for any company ever, beating Exxon’s 2008 record of $11.68 billion in quarter two. That’s in nominal terms, but even if you do the inflation adjustment Apple did better. CORRECTION: Nope,  it looks like I missed Exxon’s 2008 Q3 when they did even better, and got $14.8 billion.

Apple just reported quarterly net earnings of $13.1 billion, more than doubling year-on-year from $6 billion in the previous year. In that context, the 26 percent year-on-year growth in Mac sales makes that unit look disappointing. Basically notwithstanding all the whining in the press about the fact that the iPhone 4S lacked a new form factor, it was wildly popular and they enjoyed 128 percent year-on-year iPhone sales.

The real key thing here, according to Apple on the earnings call, is the adoption of iOS devices in an enterprise context. They’re bragging about both iPhone and especially iPad uses in the business context. This is exactly where Mac fell down back in the day. When introduced, the Mac captured the imagination of computer enthusiasts and was a popular consumer device but outside of a few niches Windows and Intel quickly started to dominate the enterprise market. But with their new set of mobile devices, Apple is having tremendous success in getting corporate IT departments on board.

MORE NUMBERS: iPad sales surged 111 percent year-on-year, enormous in any context but slower growth than the iPhone despite the iPhone being in the more mature smartphone market. They haven’t released a detailed breakdown, but they’re saying that the iPhone 4S was the best-selling phone but also note that the iPhone 4S wasn’t available in China during the quarter in question so there’s more room for growth there.

Apple has $97.6 billion in cash of which $64 billion is being held offshore. They say they have no particular plans to announce about what to do with it.

EVEN MORE NUMBERS: Queried about going in to the television market, Tim Cook says they sold 1.4 million Apple TVs in Q4 which still counts as a “hobby” level of revenue and he had no further remarks.

Cook says the 44.7 percent gross margin is probably unsustainably high and driven by a confluence of commodity prices and product lifecycle effects. Obviously you could fall well below 44.7 percent and still have an enormous gross margin.

OPERATOR BREAKDOWN: Verizon’s sales of iPhones “more than doubled” in Q4 meaning that Verizon played a role in the iPhone sale surge, but only in the sense that sales growth seems to have been broadly based rather than concentrated in some specific distribution outlet.