This article was updated on Oct. 16, 2017, and originally published on May 24, 2017.
You don't become the largest publicly traded company in history without beating the market averages for years, if not decades. Just look at how tech giant Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has outperformed the major U.S. benchmarks over the past decade:
Of course, this kind of backward-looking evidence tells us little about the case for investing in Apple, so here's a snapshot of some of the company's current fundamental metrics:
|Price per Share||Market Capitalization||P/E|
Assuming you're interested, how do you invest in Apple stock? First, you'll need to know how to open a brokerage account as well as how to buy a stock; our guides on both topics are required reading for all investing newbies before proceeding further.
Once you've mastered the basics of personal finance and investing and you think you're ready to add Apple shares to your portfolio, you still need to understand why you might want to own Apple. Let's take a look.
Inside Apple's iEmpire
Founded by two legendary Steves -- Jobs and Wozniak -- Apple played a leading role in spurring consumer-tech revolutions in personal computing, digital music, MP3 players, smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches.
Ushering in just one of those revolutions would be enough to mint a lasting legacy for a tech company, which makes it astounding to realize that Apple's entry into each of those areas -- all of which existed before Apple's entrance -- was the catalyst that elevated their products into the mass market.
Since its launch, the iPhone has become the primary engine powering Apple's financial performance. Here's a snapshot of iPhone sales in relation to the Mac maker's revenue base over its three most recent fiscal years:
|iPhone revenue||$136.7 billion||$155.0 billion||$101.9 billion|
|Apple total revenue||$215.6 billion||$233.7 billion||$182.8 billion|
|iPhone as a % of total revenue||63%||66%||56%|
Because of its cushy margin structure, the iPhone also contributes the bulk of Apple's profit,. In fact, the iPhone so dominates the global smartphone market that, along with rival Samsung, it's estimated to collect more than 90% of worldwide smartphone operating profits.
As for the rest of Apple's product mix, the electronics giant splits its sales among the iPad, Mac, services, and "other products." For 2016, Mac, iPad, and services sales each totaled between $20 billion and $25 billion, and other products provided $11 billion in revenue.
Now that Apple has grown so large, it might be easy to conclude that its size would be an anchor on continued share price appreciation. That's true to a degree. After all, at 41 years old, it is a mature company. But Apple shares still offer an attractive opportunity for prospective investors today, for both long-term and short-term reasons.
The future is still bright for Apple
In September 2017, Apple launched a redesigned suite of iPhones to celebrate the device's 10th anniversary. The flagship iPhone X features an all-glass body with an edge-to-edge OLED display, an integration of the home button into the glass panel, facial recognition technology, wireless charging, an improved camera, and more. The iPhone X principally differs from the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus in terms of its screen design, but their prices also differ. The iPhone X starts at $999, compared to $699 for the iPhone 8 and $799 for the iPhone 8 Plus.
In any event, research suggested that Apple's iPhone installed base would be primed to upgrade en masse. Analysts at BMO had estimated that 31% of the nearly 800 million iPhones in use would be 2 years old or more by the time the new iPhones were expected to be shipped this fall, priming the company for another record-setting fiscal year in its fiscal 2018; Apple's fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.
Looking further out, Apple also has at least two compelling projects in development that should allow the company to continue to grow, even as its revenue base continues to swell.
The first is Apple's "secret" automotive project, dubbed Titan. With much of the tech industry focused on the continued integration of the tech and auto industries, what we know about this project makes sense, particularly given Apple's peerless ability to produce end-to-end consumer experiences that rely on software and hardware expertise. So long as it can figure out the appropriate business model -- and outsource the low-margin assembly, as it does with the iPhone -- even capturing a small share of the global auto market could move the needle for Apple's massive revenue base in the coming years.
The next opportunity, augmented reality (AR), is far less clearly defined. Analysts have recognized that many large players are shifting their focus toward AR. Snap and Facebook are two such examples. As software embraces AR, a new opportunity will arise for Apple and other tech companies to introduce new devices. It isn't yet clear what hardware Apple could create, but it seems clear that it would be interested and well-positioned to succeed in these emerging hardware markets.
Apple is one of the strongest tech companies on earth, and management's long-term vision and ample financial resources should be enough to keep the company at the forefront of the technology industry, even as it changes dramatically.
Andrew Tonner owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.