Apple has posted the biggest quarterly profit ever made by a public company, but while they lead all other technology companies in the financial stakes, they have lost their position as a visionary in the field.
Apple reported a net profit of $18bn (£11.8bn) in its first fiscal quarter, soaring past the previous record of $15.9bn set by ExxonMobil in 2012, as a result of record sales of its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
The Cupertino-based company beat analysts expectations by a large margin, selling 74.5 million iPhones in the three months to 27 December, a number described by Apple CEO Tim Cook as “staggering”.
While Apple may be selling more smartphones than ever, with growth in China a major factor, the phones it is selling no longer push the boundaries or demonstrate any vision.
The iPhone 6 Plus was Apple’s reaction to the larger screened premium Android devices that have sold well for Samsung, HTC, and others – it was Apple playing catch up and joining a market that Steve Jobs claimed would never happen as the original iPhone was apparently the ‘perfect’ seize for everyone. Even the standard iPhone 6 is notably bigger than the previous flagship model, the iPhone 5S.
Similarly, the iPhone 6 is the first iPhone to include NFC, something which Android devices have included since the Nexus S in 2010.
The iPhone 6 remains one of the best smartphones available, but for all Apple’s claims and courtcases about their competitors copying their advances, those roles have now almost entirely reversed.
Apple may not have produced the first smartphone or tablet, but Steve Jobs had the vision that made those devices desirable and useful to almost everyone. Since the iPod debuted in 2001, Apple has the first to bring together the right technologies at the right time to make market-leading or even market-creating devices. Where is that leadership now?
Apple’s ‘next big thing’ is the Apple Watch, but again here Android manufacturers have beaten them out of the gates, with the Android Wear platform nearly a year old and Sony already on its third SmartWatch iteration.
Tim Cook was Apple’s supply chain and profit man under Steve Jobs, and he continues to do an impressive job at that task, as shown in the latest results. However, unless Apple starts to regain its leadership status, the public will start to resent paying the ‘Apple premium’ that has made these profits possible.
Photograph by Kārlis Dambrāns