The initial response to Apple's (AAPL -0.91%) earnings release was not good. Shares promptly tanked by 9% immediately following the report, erasing $66.5 billion from the Mac maker's market cap in a matter of minutes. Shares recovered modestly after Tim Cook and company had some time to explain the figures. The initial negative reaction was a function of several factors.
First and foremost, guidance for the September-ended quarter came in a little light compared to Wall Street expectations. Apple expects revenue this quarter to be between $49 billion and $51 billion, meaning Apple would have to hit its high end to reach the consensus of $50.9 billion. Investors should like those odds, though, since Apple has beaten the high end of its revenue guidance in seven out of the 10 quarters since it changed its guidance methodology in 2013, when it moved away from giving laughably lowballed forecasts.
iPhone unit sales came in at 47.5 million, a solid 35% increase from a year ago. But they still fell short of the Street's lofty expectations. The consensus called for 48.4 million, but numerous analysts thought it'd be reasonable if Apple sold over 50 million handsets. Objectively, it was a very strong quarter.
Revenue jumped 33% to $49.6 billion, gross margin expanded to 39.7%, and net income was $10.7 billion. That bottom line translated into $1.85 per share. Beyond iPhone units, iPad units continued to decline to 10.9 million. The Mac is still performing well, with 4.8 million units sold. That 9% increase in Mac units sure looks nice compared to the global PC market's 12% decline last quarter.
Apple repurchased $4 billion in stock in open market purchases during the quarter and launched a (somewhat expected) $6 billion accelerated share repurchase program that goes through November. Apple has now bought back $90 billion in stock. It's a good thing that Apple just boosted the repurchase authorization from $90 billion to $140 billion, so it can continue scooping up its own shares.
Let's talk iPhone
While iPhone units jumped 35%, iPhone revenue soared 59% to $31.4 billion. That was thanks to strong iPhone average selling price of $660, an incredible $99 jump from a year ago. To be fair, that's a relatively easy comparison since the $561 ASP from a year ago was the lowest in years. The new storage pricing structure and $100 premium for the 6 Plus continue to do wonders.
Apple also said it enjoyed the highest rate of Android switchers ever during the quarter, while the App Store hit a new quarterly revenue record. iPhone sales were up 87% in Greater China, compared to the market's 5% growth there. Furthermore, only 27% of the iPhone installed base has upgraded to a 6 or 6 Plus, so there's still plenty of room to run.
Keeping mum on Apple Watch
Ahead of the release, I didn't think that Apple would be totally opaque about Apple Watch results, since it would merely trigger speculation, for better or for worse. I figured that Apple would give some vague notion of how the new product was faring on the market. Sadly, opaque is exactly what Apple was.
The company provided no concrete data points, sticking with its rationale that such data would be useful for competitors. Apple did say that sales beat its internal expectations, while noting there were supply constraints throughout the quarter as it ramped up production. Apple Watch wasn't even available at Apple Retail Stores until mid-June. Cook did directly dismiss those reports that sales had fallen since launch (referring to this hysteria). Apple Watch had the highest sales in June, completely undermining Slice Intelligence's bogus findings.
Apple gave only a sliver of tangible information. Knowing that investors are watching and would try to back into Apple Watch's performance, Cook said that it would be misplaced to simply take the sequential or year-over-year increase in Other Products revenue and attribute that to Apple Watch. In fact, Apple Watch more than accounted for those increases, since the rest of the products in that category (like iPod) are shrinking. For context, Other Products revenue rose by $952 million sequentially and $874 million year over year, so we know that Apple Watch revenue was greater than that. CFO Luca Maestri said Apple Watch accounted for "well over 100% of the growth."
That's all we know.
A numbers game
Well, now it's time to speculate. Other Products includes things like iPod and accessories. In Q4 2014 (before the reporting change), iPod revenue was $410 million and accessories revenue was $1.5 billion, for a total of approximately $1.9 billion. It's quite conceivable that iPod revenue has fallen to around $300 million, and if accessories revenue is in the neighborhood of $1.2 billion, then that would leave around $1.1 billion that could be Apple Watch revenue. If Apple Watch fetches an ASP of $500, then that implies unit sales of around 2.2 million.
There are countless ways for us to play with these numbers. Apple Watch revenue of $1 billion with a $700 ASP would be just 1.4 million units, or $1.2 billion revenue at a $400 ASP would be 3 million units. Considering Maestri's comment above, if Apple Watch accounted for say, 150% of the sequential growth, then that would suggest $1.4 billion in Apple Watch revenue. Either way, analysts were expecting Apple Watch revenue to be closer to $1.8 billion, and Apple certainly didn't hit some of the more bullish unit estimates floating around out there.
Apple is keeping mum, frustrating investors everywhere. Lacking first-party data, investors have to play these types of numbers games. You asked for it, Apple.