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3 Positives from Apple Inc.'s Most Recent Earnings Call

By Ashraf Eassa – Jan 28, 2016 at 9:30AM

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Although the tech titan's earnings results were less than stellar, management had some encouraging things to say on the call.

Following market close on Jan. 26, Apple (AAPL -4.33%) reported its long-awaited results for its fiscal first quarter and issued guidance for the company's fiscal second quarter. Apple expects iPhone shipments to fall year over year in the fiscal second quarter of the year, marking the first ever year-over-year decline in iPhone shipments in the history of iPhone.

Although there was a lot of fodder for the bears in this report, Apple CEO Tim Cook and CFO Luca Maestri did offer some positives for investors to chew on as they await a rebound in the iDevice maker's key business. Here are three of them.

No. 1: iPhone switcher rate hits record high
In an article published prior to Apple's earnings announcement, I was quite critical of some aspects of the iPhone 6s/6s Plus vis-a-vis the competition. However, much to my surprise (and I was happy to see this), Tim Cook said that Apple saw "a greater number of switchers from Android to iPhone than ever in Q1."

Although the competitive pressures should increase for the iPhone during the first half of 2016 as the competition rolls out more advanced phones, I may have been a little harsh on the competitiveness of the iPhone. That said, I still believe that it is in Apple's best interests to make sure that from a hardware perspective, iPhone is best in class in order to accelerate switcher rates as well as offer more compelling reasons for people to upgrade.

No. 2: Apple won't take its foot off the gas, even in tough times
During the call, analyst Shannon Cross from Cross Research asked management to talk about Apple's plans for SG&A and R&D spending in light of the "pressures" that the company is currently facing.

Cook made it clear that, at least when it comes to research and development spending, Apple will continue to "invest without pause." He pointed to the company having "some great things in the pipeline" and emphasized Apple's commitment to invest through downturns.

In my view this is absolutely the right decision. Economic downturns eventually pass, and company that can emerge from those downturns with really exciting products to sell should be able to reap the benefits. Those who let up on the investment levels, weakening their product pipelines in the process, may not be in such a good position once things get better.

Kudos to Apple management for thinking Foolishly (i.e., for the long-term) rather than foolishly cutting expenses to bolster profits as revenue dips.

No. 3: Runway for upgrades?
Apple management had previously cited the fact that only around 30% of Apple's installed base prior to the iPhone 6/6 Plus launch had actually upgraded to those phones as a reason for optimism for continued iPhone growth.

On the most recent call, Cook provided an updated value for this particular metric. According to the Apple chief, only around 40% of the pre-iPhone 6/6 Plus iPhone installed base has upgraded to the iPhone 6/6 Plus/6s/6s Plus. The implication, of course, is that a full 60% have yet to upgrade.

I suspect that this will work nicely in Apple's favor over the course of the next year or so, especially once Apple gets the iPhone 5se -- an upgraded 4-inch iPhone -- out, enticing those who want new iPhones, but not larger iPhones, to upgrade.

Ashraf Eassa has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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