- The iPhone is booming: Sales were up 17% year-over-year to a whopping $65.6 billion in a single quarter.
- Research firm IDC estimates that Apple shipped more phones during the quarter than any other smartphone vendor ever has in a single quarter.
- Apple's dominant quarter is adding fuel to the so-called "super cycle" investor thesis that suggests that every few years, Apple's new phones are timed to ride a wave of of must-have upgrades to strong growth.
Apple reported blowout earnings on Wednesday. Even during a global pandemic, every single product line was up, leading to the company's first quarter with over $100 billion in sales.
But Apple is still best known for the iPhone, which accounted for nearly 59% of the company's revenue during the holiday quarter. The iPhone is booming, too: Sales were up 17% year-over-year to a whopping $65.6 billion in a single quarter. That's a big improvement from last year's holiday quarter, when sales were up only 7.6% from the year ago.
Apple doesn't provide unit sales for its products anymore, but according to an estimate from research firm IDC, Apple shipped 90.1 million phones during the quarter. That's the largest number in any single quarter since IDC started tracking smartphones, analyst Francisco Jeronimo said.
Apple's dominant quarter is adding fuel to the so-called "super cycle" investor thesis, where must-have updates combine with the natural customer upgrade cycle to drive a spike in sales growth. Analysts saw this year's iPhone 12 models as a good candidate for a super-cycle because they sported a new design and added 5G, which enables the devices to connect to faster wireless networks.
In a note on Wednesday, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives predicted that the current cycle "should eclipse the previous iPhone record set in FY15, an achievement for the ages in our opinion."
Apple CEO Tim Cook also said in an interview with CNBC that the company's iPhone results could have been better if not for store closures caused by the ongoing pandemic.
"Taking the stores out of the equation, particularly for iPhones and wearables, there's a drag on sales," Cook told CNBC's Josh Lipton.
In a conference call with analysts, Cook said that the new iPhones were not only getting current iPhone users to open up their wallets and upgrade, but also convincing people who had previously used competitor phones to get their first iPhone.
"Looking at the iPhone 12 family, we saw both switchers and upgraders increase on a year over year basis. And in fact, we saw the largest number of upgraders, that we've ever seen in a quarter," Cook said.
5G remains a potential tailwind for iPhone sales through the rest of the year, Apple signaled on Wednesday. Cook said that while 5G in China was well established, leading to strong iPhone sales, 5G cellular networks in other regions aren't as built-out yet, especially in Europe.
"I think most of that growth is probably in front of us there as well," Cook said.