The acronym FAANG refers to a group of prominent tech companies. It includes Facebook parent Meta Platforms, Apple (AAPL 1.12%), Amazon, Netflix, and Google parent Alphabet.
Though these tech giants have a long history of crushing the market, all of them have lagged the tech-heavy Nasdaq this year -- all but one: Apple. The iPhone maker continues to put up impressive performances.
And despite having a market cap above $2 trillion, there is plenty of fuel left in the growth tank. Here's why.
Riding out the storm
Apple is known for putting its own spin on existing technological devices. That's what it did with the iPhone, its AirPods, and many other gadgets, and with great success. But what Apple isn't known for is low prices. The company's electronics generally command hefty premiums. Given the state of the economy -- including decades-high inflation -- it's not crazy to think that Apple's sales would drop substantially, especially considering people can get by just fine without most of its products.
But that's not what we're seeing. In the fourth quarter of its fiscal year 2022, ending on Sept. 24, Apple recorded revenue of $90.1 billion, an increase of 8% year over year (YoY) and a record for the company's September quarter. iPhone sales jumped by 9.7% YoY during the period to $42.6 billion -- also a record for this quarter.
Inflation wasn't the only thing working against Apple. The company had to deal with supply chain issues that impacted its ability to meet demand for the iPhone, as well as unfavorable currency exchange fluctuations. On the bottom line, Apple reported earnings per share of $1.29, 4% higher than the year-ago period.
Apple's ability to perform well despite all the troubles it faces speaks volumes about just how popular the company is. Customers continue to spend money on the iPhone and other devices despite these gadgets' highly prohibitive prices. That's why it is one of Warren Buffett's largest holdings.
There is more where that came from
Let's look at a few areas where Apple can continue to grow -- first, within its existing base of customers. iPhone users are as excited about new versions of the highly successful smartphone as everyone else. In the company's fourth quarter, it had a record number of upgrades -- a good sign that the new iPhone fatigue syndrome some analysts have been warning about for years hasn't yet fully taken over.
Second, Apple is making a strong push within emerging markets, where smartphone penetration tends to be lower. The company reported strong double-digit growth in such markets as Latin America, Southeast Asia, and India. About 78% of the world's population had a smartphone as of 2020, which includes 82% of people in North America, 78% in Europe, but only 48% in sub-Saharan Africa.
Access to mobile devices has only become more important. We can reasonably predict that more people in developing nations will get on board, making room for Apple to gain new users in these regions. Of course, Apple is also grabbing new customers by stealing them away from its competitors. It recorded double-digit growth in the number of those who switched to the iPhone during its Q4 in 2022.
It is worth noting that the switch to the faster 5G wireless technology is helping fuel iPhone sales. Apple's smartphones have supported 5G technology for a couple of years now, but worldwide 5G penetration remains quite low, according to the company. That'll help boost the company's crown jewel as the entire world catches up to 5G wireless.
All of these opportunities will allow Apple to increase its installed base, which reached a new record in its latest period. That's an increasingly important aspect of the company's business. It allows it to offer a range of services through its network, from Apple TV+ to Apple Pay, a leading digital wallet. Apple's entire ecosystem isn't easy to leave. Switching requires transferring loads of data, which can sometimes be incredibly tedious.
Further, Apple's services segment boasts higher margins than the rest of its business. The growth of this unit spells great news for Apple's future.
Here's one more reason to buy the company's shares: Apple generates plenty of cash, which allows the company to invest aggressively in research and development efforts and reward its shareholders with dividends. The company returned $29 billion to its shareholders in its fourth quarter.
With a robust business that is handling the challenging conditions just fine, lots of growth potential, steady cash flow, and the willingness to give back to investors via dividends, no wonder Apple is outperforming its FAANG peers and the broader technology sector.