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Apple earnings: $1.96 per share, vs $1.88 expected

Apple on Tuesday posted quarterly earnings and revenue that topped analysts' expectations, boosted by strong iPhone growth in China.

Apple reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings of $1.96 per share on sales of $51.5 billion.

Analysts expected the tech giant to report earnings of $1.88 per share on $51.11 billion in revenue, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters. Shares were flat in up-and-down after-hours trading following the results.

The company sold 48.04 million iPhones in the quarter, as well as 9.88 million iPads. Both fell slightly short of Wall Street's expectations, according to StreetAccount.

"The fact of the matter is the smartphone market is maturing, unit sales are slowing down. Apple's doing a great job of taking more share, but that dependency on the iPhone remains and that skepticism among investors remains," Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Financial, told CNBC.

Apple CEO Tim Cook told CNBC the company saw "no sign of a slowdown in China." Revenue in greater China rose 99 percent year over year to $12.52 billion, but was down 5 percent from the previous quarter.

IPhone shipments in China climbed 87 percent from the previous year, Cook said. He said Apple saw its highest-ever rate of users switching from Android devices.

Apple also provided guidance for its key fiscal-first quarter sales that came in at the low end of analysts' estimates. It expects revenue of $75.5 billion to $77.5 billion; analysts had expected sales of about $77.17 billion.

Ross Gerber of Gerber Kawasaki told CNBC he expects iPhone sales to lead to a strong first quarter.

"Apple's taking share from everybody and their technology, hardware and software is just so much better," he said.

Apple's cash pile also rose to about $206 billion in the fourth quarter. Gerber contended Apple reported a strong quarter but the stock may not have reacted because investors want to see Apple use its cash.

The Apple Watch also launched earlier this year, and the company has yet to disclose specific shipment numbers. Watch sales rose sequentially and beat the company's expectations, Cook said in a conference call Tuesday.

Cook also touted the growth of Apple Pay, the company's mobile payment system.

Apple shares have fallen about 8 percent since the day after its last quarterly results in July.

CNBC's Josh Lipton contributed to this report.