In a case of conventional Wall Street wisdom, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) reported one of the most disappointing earnings beats in recent history. In both revenue and EPS, the company overperformed versus analyst expectations, grossing $49.6 billion versus analyst expectations of $49.4 billion and $1.85 versus the Street consensus of $1.81. On a year-over-year basis, Apple increased those figures 33% and 45%, respectively, as Apple continues to clearly grow.
And while Apple beat expectations on both the top and bottom lines, for many this was clearly a disappointing result. Most specifically, the company reported iPhone sales figures below expectations. Against analysts' consensus of 48.8 million units sold, the company came up short by selling 47.5 million units. Even including the 600,000 phones the company chose not to ship into its in-channel inventory, the company still fell short of analyst expectations.
So should you be happy or disappointed with Apple's third-quarter earnings?
Although the rest of Apple's back to growth, the company is iPhone-driven
Many of those following Apple have noted its extreme reliance on one product: iPhones. For example, in Cupertino's second fiscal quarter, the company reported nearly 70% of revenue from its signature line. Of course, most of that increase is due to tremendous growth within the product, but it was also reflective of recent struggles from the rest of the business. For example, during the first and second fiscal quarters, non-iPhone revenue fell on a year-over-year basis:
In the recently reported third quarter, however, Apple did reverse this trend by posting a year-over-year increase in non-iPhone revenue. To be fair, it's only an increase of 3.1%, but compared with a year-over-year decrease of 9.5% last year, it's a welcome sight. On a sequential basis, the percentage of revenue derived from the iPhone dropped to 63.2%, but mostly on the back of lower iPhone revenues and not from non-iPhone growth. On a year-over-year basis, eliminating seasonality, that percentage is still up 10.4 percentage points.
As a result of this fiscal year's iPhone dominance, Morgan Stanley (via Business Insider) found that Apple added a new disclosure to address the risk: "Further, the Company generates a majority of its net sales from a single product and a decline in demand for that product could significantly impact quarterly net sales."
But let's not fall victim to arbitrary figures
Let's remember, however, what you're doing when you're investing. While there are many ways to define investing, in broad terms you're buying ownership in a business' current and future profits. And as I mentioned, Apple increased its EPS figure by 45% on a year-on-year basis. And that includes its "poor" iPhone performance, which grew "only" 58.8% over last year's corresponding quarter, even though the company fell short of the arbitrary number the greater analyst community felt Apple should attain.
Should investors worry about Apple's reliance on the iPhone line for revenue? Absolutely. Even Apple has noted that this is a new risk factor. But I fail to see how one can quantify this quarter as one of underperformance when compared with last year's earnings and iPhone revenue. Even guidance, which many blame for the sell-off, was close to existing expectations of $51 billion, with a range of $49 billion to $51 billion. At the midrange of $50 billion, revenue would still increase nearly 19% over Q4 2014. As an Apple investor, I'm willing to take that growth.