Tuesday afternoon, Apple reported $6.9 billion in profit on $35.3 billion in revenue for the third fiscal quarter — just topping Wall Street's pessimistic expectations of $35.18 billion, and slightly beating sales for the same quarter last year.
Though sales of iPads and Macs came in a bit low, Apple sold 31 million iPhone units, less than the 37.4 million it shipped last quarter, but outpacing analysts' guesstimate of 26 million by a long shot. Even as the smartphone market matures, with Samsung and Google scooping up some of the market, the iPhone is still delivering.
The question now seems to be: Can one product keep Apple treading water until it hits a new phase of growth? Some argue the iPhone could be the gift that keeps giving for some time to come.
iPhone sales are amazing, partly because they're getting cheaper. (ASP was $580.) If Apple release a cheaper iPhone it's gonna be huge
— Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) July 23, 2013
The Wall Street Journal's Ian Sherr has another suggestion for how to keep milking the iPhone and Apple's other existing products. "If Apple signs a deal with China Mobile, which has a subscriber base about twice the size of the U.S. population, it effectively will begin printing money again," Sherr writes. "Short of that, any insight on how well the Chinese are responding to Apple’s products is a plus."
"This is a tired product, it’s been out three quarters. That says something," Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, tells the Journal of the iPhone 5. "What it comes down to is people spend a ton of time on their phone, and they’re willing to spend a little more for the quality."
Still, the kajillion-dollar question remains: What next? Apple still hasn't dropped a new product line since 2010, though rumors continue to swirl about an iWatch or an iTV. On the conference call following the report, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer and CEO Tim Cook brushed off specific questions about plans to unveil future products.
"We start with the product, because we believe that the most important thing is that our customers love the product and want them. If you don't start at that level, you can wind up creating things that people don't want," said Cook, keeping it vague.
Oppenheimer, though, hinted that we may not have to wait too much longer: "We are on track to have a very busy fall."
Apple's share price is up almost 4 percent in after-hours trading.