Apple Earnings: Big Profits and Truly Enormous iGadget Volume [Update]

Last Updated Jan 19, 2011 10:24 AM EST

Apple (AAPL) announced another record revenue and earnings quarter. Q1 revenue at $26.74 billion and $6 billion in profit might have been enough to make investors forget that CEO Steve Jobs is taking another medical leave. (It certainly worked with equity analysts, who didn't bother to ask when Jobs might return when they had the chance.)

That aside, the interesting story is in the massive volume of iGadgets -- OK, technically, devices like the iPhone or iPad that run iOS -- the company sells. A conservative estimate would put Apple at selling more than 120 million of the devices a year, not counting the Apple TV or Macs, as they start to move toward a convergence with the mobile device operating system. More likely, the number is probably closer to 150 million. As Google (GOOG) seems to have more than kept pace, that's 300 million units in 2011 between the two of them.

One million brainy gizmos sold every 1.2 days
Let's put that in context for a moment. That's the equivalent of a new smart gizmo -- iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet -- for every person in the U.S. Each year. (Yes, I know that the sales and activation figures are global.) It represents one million whizz-bang gadgets sold every 1.2 days. That makes sales of Goopple devices roughly equivalent to the entire worldwide PC market (346 million units in 2010, IDC says), which took 29 years to reach this point. Google and Apple together hit the mark in four years.

Woof.

In its earnings release, Apple said that it sold 16.24 million iPhones and 7.33 million iPads. The phone figure isn't so surprising. During its FY2010 fourth quarter, Apple sold 14.1 million iPhones, so the most recent number is about 15.2 percent growth. Google Android activations have been growth at a much sharper rate and now outpace the iPhone.

Crunching the numbers
The iPad number is impressive and represents more than 2.4 million units a month. Taken with the iPhones, Apple sold 23.57 million units last quarter. However, the iPod touch is also an iOS device, and Apple sold 19.45 iPods. The question is how many of them are the iOS-running touches. In September, Horace Dediu of market research firm Asymco used the Apple announcement of having sold 120 million iOS devices, subtracted the number of iPhones and iPads sold, and came up with 45.2 million iPod touches, or 37.7 percent of all iOS units.

If the percentages held true, it would mean that the 23.57 million iPhones and iPads represented 62.3 percent of the iOS devices sold last quarter, which would put the total number at 37.83 million, which is a rate of 151 million devices a year.

However, that would mean Apple sold 14.26 million touches out of 19.45 iPods. That's a huge percentage. So, being ultra conservative, assume that 40 percent of the iPods sold are touches. That would be 7.78 million units, or 31.35 million iOS units sold in total. Even then, Apple would be selling them at a rate of more than 125 million a year.

Given that Google is ahead, the results suggests that the two companies will at least see between 250 million and 300 million units running their operating systems sell in 2011. And that's without expecting any additional growth, which seems unrealistic.

[Update: Another impressive number is the average selling price of the iPhone:about $625, each. Hard not to make money at that rate.]

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  • Erik Sherman On Twitter»

    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.

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