Apple's 5G iPhone cooks up a blowout quarter

Apple's 5G-packing iPhone 12 revs Cupertino to a record $111.4 billion quarter.

Pádraig Belton, Contributor, Light Reading

January 28, 2021

4 Min Read
Apple's 5G iPhone cooks up a blowout quarter

Celebrating the 11th anniversary of when Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPad, Apple saw its 5G-packing iPhone 12 buoy its first-quarter revenue by 21%.

With the iPhone 12 now making up 56% of US iPhone sales in the quarter, the new 5G device has been the workhorse driving Apple's record sales – which is unlikely to go unnoticed by other smartphone makers.

"In our view, the iPhone 12 has been Apple's most successful product launch in the last five years," commented Morgan Stanley in a research note.

There are over 1 billion active installed iPhones in the world, said Apple's chief executive, Tim Cook, on a conference call.

And all these sales, lifted by a lucrative holiday shopping season, fed Apple's first $100 billion quarter.

Cupertino's revenues of $111.4 billion handily beat analysts' predictions of $103 billion.

Battling tough local incumbents in China like Huawei and Xiaomi, Apple has eked out a Chinese market share that is now more than 20%.

Chinese sales rose by 57% as Apple probably tapped pent-up demand for upgrades.

Meanwhile, on US shores, continuing a run of strong tech performances that began with Microsoft's earnings, Apple now reigns as America's biggest listed public company by market capitalization, at $2.4 trillion.

A handful of other companies, including Walmart, have posted $100 billion quarters, and Amazon is expected to join this club with its next results, too.

Apple's profit margins are roughly five times those of either company, though.

And its net quarterly profit of $28.8 billion (beating an expected $23.6 billion), is the biggest quarterly profit ever for a private company.

Not everyone will be happy to read the results. Samsung saw its mobile sales in the last quarter tumble 11%, acknowledging there was "intensified competition in the year-end season."

But the Seoul-based smartphone giant said it will aim to boost its sales "by fully addressing replacement demand for 5G with mass-market 5G models."

Apple is attempting to apply the lesson elsewhere in its stable, too.

The MacBook is due for a refit with built-in 5G connectivity and face recognition, although that won't be coming this year.

As more of Apple's devices go 5G, the company will be looking long and hard at cooking up its own integrated 5G modems in-house, instead of continuing to use Qualcomm's products, which generate hefty margins for the chipmaker.

These would follow in the tracks of Apple's homegrown GPU, which it took in-house after a messy falling-out – subsequently patched up by a licensing agreement – with previous supplier Imagination.

'Subsidies always help'

The new iPhone 12 models, and particularly the most expensive ones, garnered a significant share of sales, noted Josh Lowitz, an equities analyst at Chicago-based CIRP.

The 5G product did well in China, where 5G "is well-established and the overwhelming majority of phones are 5G phones," said Cook.

The US market also looks promising for 5G device sales, and so does South Korea's.

Want to know more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G content channel here on
Light Reading.

But the chief executive complained that Europe "is not in the place of, or nowhere close to, China or the US."

If you are a carrier, and wondering whether Cook wants you to subsidize 5G device sales, the answer is yes.

"Subsidies always help. Anything that reduces the price to the customer is good for the customer and obviously good for the carrier and good for us as well," he says, calling them a "win across the board."

Apple might try to emulate its success in China in other newly wealthy countries, like India, where its share of smartphones is "quite low," admitted Cook.

But "even in the developed markets, when you look at our share, definitely not everybody has an iPhone. Not even close," he said.

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— Padraig Belton, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Pádraig Belton

Contributor, Light Reading

Contributor, Light Reading

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