Apple disappoints with flat iPhone sales

Apple logo from inside Apple Store in Boston
The Apple logo is seen from inside the company's Boylston Street store in Boston on Sept. 16, 2015. Credit: Blair Hanley Frank

Sales growth in the last quarter was the slowest in the iPhone's history

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Apple sold roughly as many iPhones during the last quarter of 2015 as it did during the same period in 2014, signaling a possible end to continual gains for the phone and a potential shift in Apple’s business and the smartphone market at large.

That’s according to financial results from the company's first fiscal quarter, which ended Dec. 26. They showed Apple sold 74.8 million smartphones during the previous quarter, compared to 74.5 million handsets during the same period in 2014. Over the past several years, Apple could be relied upon to post massive iPhone sales that passed the preceding year’s handily. That wasn't the case this time. 

The news was preceded by weeks of dark predictions, with media reports claiming Apple had cut manufacturing orders from the companies that build the iPhone because inventory of the smartphone was backing up in retail channels.  

Apple posted record quarterly revenue of $75.9 billion, compared to $74.6 billion in sales during the same period in 2014. Its profit for the quarter was $18.4 billion, up by almost $400 million year-over-year. The company, like many others in the U.S., blamed a stronger dollar for keeping its revenue roughly flat. In a conference call with financial analysts, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company is vulnerable to significant impacts from foreign exchange rates, since two-thirds of its business comes from outside the U.S.

Looking forward, there are more clouds on the horizon. Apple expects its revenue for the current quarter to be between $50 billion and $53 billion, compared with $58 billion in revenue during the same period last year. It’s not clear yet what will drive that decline, but it seems likely that iPhone sales and currency impacts may be at least partly to blame. 

An earlier version of this story misstated the year-over-year increase in profit for the quarter in the second sentence of the fourth paragraph. It should be almost $400 million.

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