Apple may be unusually excited today. The maker of the $1,000 iPhone X gets to put its revamped smartphone out into the world, right after impressing the financial community with its latest earnings results.
For large, publicly traded technology firms, earnings reports are where they must show how their lofty goals or breathless words about innovation pan out. Based on Apple’s latest results, released Thursday, they’re working out great. That’s true across the top-tier tech sector: Last week, Google posted $27.8 billion in quarterly revenue, and Amazon reported $43.7 billion.
Apple topped them both. Its fourth fiscal quarter rang in $52.6 billion in revenue, a 12 percent surge compared to this time last year, and $10.7 billion in profit.
“We also generated strong operating cash flow of $15.7 billion and returned $11 billion to investors through our capital return program,” said Luca Maestri, Apple’s chief financial officer. The company’s earnings per share grew 24 percent over the quarter, its fourth consecutive period of accelerated revenue growth. Speculation that Apple would become the first $1 trillion company crystallized when its market cap shot up past $900 billion.
Apple very well could be considered fashion’s analogue in the technology industry, thanks to its mythical attention to design and customer experience. This year, the company decided to take some creative chances by backing a variety of emerging technologies, from augmented reality to facial recognition and artificial intelligence. The changes could amount to meaningful influences affecting the fashion, beauty and retail sectors, thanks in part to the ubiquity of the iPhone.
In its phone business alone, Apple sold 46.7 million units last quarter and reported a fierce loyalty rate of 95 percent. Those sales included the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, but not the iPhone X. With the latter’s launch today, the company releases its biggest leap forward in mobile tech.
Perhaps to beat back creeping ennui after 10 years of iPhones, Apple embraced a range of future-forward technologies. Its ARKit software tools made augmented reality features for iPhones easier to develop and deploy. Face ID, the company’s new facial recognition feature for the iPhone X, aims to secure everything from phone access to payments. The company also packed in new depth-sensing dual cameras in the X model and the iPhone 8 Plus, and the high-end device will sport a new “neural engine” processor chip designed to handle the steep computing demands of artificial intelligence. So users could enjoy many of those features, Apple also put its edge-to-edge screen on its premium phone.
For AR alone, the changes sparked furious development in the retail industry and elsewhere. When the cameras, software and processor reach the hands of millions of users, the iPhone’s influence could shape everything from social photos to computer vision-based styling advice and shopping.
All that has kept Apple excited about the outlook for its business. “As we approach the holiday season,” said Tim Cook, Apple chief executive officer, “we expect it to be our biggest quarter ever.”