Apple’s growth in the last several years has been phenomenal and well-covered, but keeping that growth in perspective can be difficult, or at least easy to take for granted. Fortunately, we’ve put together some visual aids to help you out.
Let’s start with a chart showing iPod sales since the December quarter of 2003 (Apple’s first fiscal quarter - all quarters are represented as Apple’s fiscal quarters). If you look at the early portion of this chart, the rapid growth of the iPod is evident, but what may easier to ignore without seeing it is just how robust those sales have remained, even after the iPhone was introduced in 2007.
All data compiled by The Mac Observer
The chart shows that Apple’s iPod sales, while falling from their peak in 2008-2009, have remained strong, even though the age of the iPhone-led smartphone has obviated the need to carry a separate device dedicate to music and/or video.
Moving on to iPhone sales, the chart below shows just how fast Apple’s smartphone platform has taken off in the last two years, with the last three quarters being monstrous. Those represent the three quarters since the iPhone 4 went on sale.
Mixing the two sets of data, it also becomes evident that iPhone sales have risen far faster than the slight decline in iPod sales.
In the meanwhile, the Mac is proving to be the little engine that could. While iPod and iPhone sales show a pronounced effect from both seasonal factors and product cycles in their growth (and decline, in the case of recent iPod sales), Apple’s Mac business has shown far steadier growth. Seasonal factors obviously still play a role, but the Mac is clearly gaining strength (see our separate coverage of Apple’s Mac sales for more information).
With the iPad still two days away from a full year of availability, there’s less to see in its chart. With such a small data set, it’s impossible to identify trends, but we will note that the Christmas shopping season has so far had an effect that is closer to the iPod than the iPhone, though that effect is less pronounced than it is for the iPod. This is ancillary evidence that adds to this reporter’s contention that the iPad’s future will more closely resemble the iPod than the iPhone.
Lastly we’ll look at the money part of the equation. The chart below shows Apple’s stunning growth in revenue and earnings. Note that earnings for the last two quarters are more than 4x revenue from the first two quarters in the chart. The chart also shows that earnings have scaled very well with revenue, a sign that Apple’s management has tightly controlled costs even as the company’s business exploded.
Now compare the earnings and revenue chart with a chart showing Apple’s stock price. While AAPL has grown along with revenue and profits, the stock chart shows far more volatility than Apple’s actual business. This is due in part to how much of Apple’s market value is tied to future prospects, and not just its current operations and near-term business outlook.
*In the interest of full disclosure, the author holds a small share in AAPL stock that was not an influence in the creation of this article.