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Apple beats estimates, but watch these sales trends

Apple earnings beat expectations on strong iP... 04:33

Apple (AAPL) announced revenue and profit for the fourth fiscal quarter ending in September that beat analyst expectations. The stock was up immediately up 2 percent in after-hours trading, but quickly dropped to well under 1 percent within an hour, and then 0.3 percent lower by 6 p.m. ET.

Revenue rose 22 percent year-over-year to $51.5 billion, while net profit grew 38 percent to $11.1 billion. In a press release, the company said growth was "fueled by record fourth quarter sales of iPhone, the expanded availability of Apple Watch, and all-time records for Mac sales and revenue from services."

However, a CBS MoneyWatch analysis of sales patterns for Apple shows that the biggest engine of growth, the iPhone, didn't see the lift it usually does between the third and fourth quarters. Although Mac sales were strongly up, iPad unit and dollar sales continue their long decline, even with the introduction of the iPad Pro, at its significantly higher price. And Apple Watch sales, while up, don't seem to have nearly the appeal of iPads yet.

Here is a chart of Apple unit sales of the iPhone, iPad and Mac since the beginning of its fiscal year 2012:


Notice that the increase in unit sales of the iPhone between last quarter and the previous quarter is shallower than has been for at least two years, even with expanding sales internationally, including China. It could also be that the move of wireless carriers away from subsidizing phone purchases has already begun to have an effect on consumer desire for the devices.

Sales of the iPad continue their downward trend, suggesting that the introduction of the iPad Pro has done little at best for the line.

Apple doesn't break out other product line sales, which leaves a gaping hole when trying to understand sales of the Apple Watch. However, a look at dollar sales by category helps:


This graph looks at the categories only since the beginning of the 2013 fiscal year because the breakout before that was different. The "other products" category includes Apple Watch, Apple TV and iPods. The difference in revenue between the third and fourth quarters was about $400 million. Given the mix of prices for the various Apple Watch models ($349 to $12,000), it's impossible to tell the average sales price from the information the company provides.

However, even if all the units sold were the cheapest, that would still mean an increase of only 1.1 million units. For most companies, that might be significant, but for Apple it's proof that so far its watch won't become as fiscally important as the iPhone in the near term.

And so, the company's fate still rests on its phones, and the slight slowdown of the growth pattern this quarter will leave investors carefully watching this holiday season to see if Apple can reproduce the massive increase in phone sales it had at the same time last year.

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