The iPhone 5, and Apple’s entire iPhone line, showed tremendous adoption this quarter. Photo: Alex Washburn/Wired
Only in the world of inflated expectations that is Apple could a quarter of record device sales, record revenue, and record earnings be a disappointment. But Apple stocks dipped slightly on Thursday just after the company announced its best Q4 ever, which included $8.2 billion in earnings on $36 billion in revenue.
“We’re very proud to end a fantastic fiscal year with record September quarter results,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a press release. “We’re entering this holiday season with the best iPhone, iPad, Mac and iPod products ever, and we remain very confident in our new product pipeline.”
Leading the pack for Apple was the iPhone. Apple sold 26.9 million of them this quarter, which ended Sept. 29 and included one week of iPhone 5 sales. This beat analyst estimates of 25 million and was up 58 percent over the same period last year. iPhone sales were significantly lower than expected in Q4 last year due to anticipation for the then-yet-to-be-released iPhone 4S.
iPad sales weren’t quite so stellar, though. Apple sold only 14 million this quarter, down from 17 million last quarter and below Wall Street estimates of 16 million. The disparity caused Apple stock to dip before sales were halted at 4:50 p.m. EDT.
Cook attributed the iPad numbers to seasonal sales patterns for families with school-age children, an effect compounded by regular high iPad sales in the June quarter. Apple continues to see the PC market as the biggest opportunity for the iPad.
“We continue to be very confident that the tablet market will surpass the PC market,” Cook said. “It is already extremely compelling for many many customers to choose a tablet, in particular an iPad, over a PC. And when you look at the size of the PC market there is an enormous opportunity for Apple there.”
As for the just-announced iPad mini, Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer tempered public, media and analyst expectations over its pricing and purpose.
“When we set out to build the iPad mini, we didn’t set out to build a small, cheap iPad,” Oppenheimer said. “We set out to build a small iPad with the full iPad experience. The difference between the iPad mini and the competition is profound.” Cook added that Apple is not concerned about the iPad mini cannibalizing sales of the iPad or any other Apple product sales.
Apple is also adamant that the 7.9-inch size puts the mini in a separate class from 7-inch tablets, which Steve Jobs famously dismissed for being too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad. Jobs dubbed them “tweeners” and said they’d be dead on arrival.
“We would not make one of the 7-inch tablets,” Cook said. “We don’t think they’re good products.”
Per an analyst question, Cook addressed another potential iPad competitor, Microsoft’s Surface tablet, which goes on sale on Friday. “I haven’t personally played with a Surface yet, but what we’re reading about it is that it’s a fairly compromised, confusing product,” Cook said. “I suppose you could design a car that flies and floats, but I don’t suppose it would do all those things very well.”
In other Apple device news, the iPod line continued its downward spiral with only 5.2 million units sold, down from 6.6 million in Q4 2011. Cumulative iOS device sales totaled more than 44 million for the quarter, though.
Mac sales remained steady at 4.9 million (1 percent more than the same quarter last year). With the launch of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display Tuesday and the ultra-thin new iMacs over the next two months, perhaps that number will rise during the December quarter.
“We’re dedicated to making the very best products in the world,” Cook said. “This will always be the driving force behind Apple. We’re managing the company for the long run.”