Small-but-important details from Apple’s results
Dan Moren reveals the news that caught his eye
Apple’s quarterly financial calls are usually a time for big numbers: record revenue, billions in income, millions of iPhones sold, and so on. But what I always find more interesting are the titbits that make their way through, like tiny rowboats at risk of being crushed by the monstrous rocks that are Apple’s blockbuster financial results.
This quarter was no different. There were more than a few breadcrumbs dropped by Apple CEO Tim Cook in-between fielding questions about gross margins and talking about tariffs, some of which zipped by so fast that they were all too easy to miss. I’ve picked out two that perked up my ears, along with the larger significance that I think they import.
There’s something in the Air(Pods)
The early days of the AirPods were fraught with scarcity issues. The ship date for the headphones were delayed, and even once they were available, the roll out was gradual. But most everybody who actually managed to get their hands on them agreed that Apple’s wireless earbuds were pretty fantastic.
Now, a year and a half since the device’s launch, the popularity of the devices hasn’t slowed down. As CFO Luca Maestri pointed out during the call, the company
is still selling the wireless earbuds as fast as they can make them. Tim Cook compared the experience of seeing them to the original iPod, where the sight of the white earbuds eventually became ubiquitous; I too have seen AirPods popping up all over in the past year or so.
Usually Apple products hit a supply/demand balance after they’ve been available for a little while, so it’s interesting that AirPods aren’t quite at that point yet. Part of that probably speaks to the challenges in scaling up production; the AirPods are small, precise devices that no doubt are difficult to build in quantity. But it also makes me wonder about the next version of the AirPods, for surely there will be a next version. It’s true that we’re still waiting on the wireless charging case that Apple teased at 2017’s iPhone event; that could make an appearance at a September announcement, but Maestri’s comment makes me wonder if Apple might already be transitioning to an updated model of AirPods to show up alongside the new case. Betas for all This one’s a little bit random, but I found it fascinating. At one point, Tim Cook mentioned that the company’s beta programs have more than 4 million people in them. Of course, that’s a pretty small slice of Apple’s overall market, given that the company sold 41.3 million iPhones just last quarter. (That’s setting aside the difference between ‘people’ and ‘devices’ – I’d certainly be interested to know the break down of beta participation among Apple’s various platforms, but we’ll likely never know.) But that’s still a pretty healthy chunk of people – many of whom are end users and not developers – using pre-release software. More, I’d
wager, than most other comparable betas, and I’m not counting Google’s perpetual ‘beta’ labels here.
Hopefully that large base of beta testers also means the software that’s eventually released is even more stable, thanks to the sheer number of eyes on it. But, more importantly, this speaks to Apple’s marketing prowess, which helps entice users into wanting all those new features it shows off at WWDC. Despite the risk of bugs or rendering their devices unusable, people are still dedicated to trying out those capabilities before they’re officially ready. Just one more reminder that Apple’s a tech company that’s not quite like any other.
Apple’s AirPods have proved a hit with consumers