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Apple's 'unimaginable' quarterly earnings: 5 talking points
The tech giant makes more money in three months than many countries produce over an entire year. A guide to Apple's "monster" profits
Apple employees cheer early-bird customers at the October launch of the iPhone 4S: The latest iteration of the iPhone led the way for Apple's record-smashing earnings last quarter.
Apple employees cheer early-bird customers at the October launch of the iPhone 4S: The latest iteration of the iPhone led the way for Apple's record-smashing earnings last quarter.
Steven Georges/Press-Telegram/Corbis
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nalysts are breaking out the superlatives as they try to wrap their heads around Apple's latest earnings report, which trumpets a record $46.3 billion quarter, $13 billion of which is pure profit. "Those numbers are just unimaginable," says Michael Obuchowski at First Empire Asset Management. "Amazing in all caps," says Brian Marshall at ISI Group. Net profits were up 118 percent over the same quarter a year ago, revenue climbed 72 percent, and Apple blew past even the highest numbers analysts were expecting. Here, a look at Apple's "monster of a quarter," and what it means:

1. iPhones led the charge — and Apple could have sold more
When Apple unveiled the iPhone 4S in October, it "was greeted with grumbling from pundits and some users for lacking the razzle-dazzle that many imagined an iPhone 5 would bring," says Nick Wingfield in The New York Times. But with more than 37 million iPhones sold last quarter — a 128 percent jump from a year earlier — Apple's laughing all the way to the bank. The record iPhone sales numbers are "breathtaking," says CEO Tim Cook, but would have been even greater if Apple had been able to meet the "off the charts" demand in China. "We thought we were betting bold," Cook said. "As it turns out, we didn't bet high enough."

2. iPads and Macs had a great quarter, too
With 15.4 million iPads sold — a 111 percent jump from a year ago — Apple sold more tablets than HP did PCs last quarter. Cook said the surge in corporate iPhone and iPad sales has been a "catalyst" for greater Mac sales to Fortune 500 firms, helping the Mac's 26 percent jump, to 5.3 million sold. Apple's quarter "almost defies words in terms of the strength across all products," says Toni Sacconaghi at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. The one exception was the iPod, whose sales dropped 21 percent from a year ago, to 15.4 million. "Who needs an iPod when you have an iPhone?" says Jeremy Owens in the San Jose Mercury News.

3. The Kindle Fire didn't dent the iPad
"Apple faced its first credible competition" for the iPad last quarter, in Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire, says The Times' Wingfield. The iPad didn't notice, says Cook. "I don’t think people who want iPads will settle for" Amazon's relatively inexpensive device. Well, the Fire was the only contender with a shot at ending Apple's dominance in the tablet market, says Erika Morphy at Forbes. But "the moment it needed to go in for the kill was the holidays. Amazon tried and failed. Now it's over," and the iPad won.

4. Apple is sitting on $97.6 billion in cash
One of the most remarkable numbers from the report is the amount of cash reserves Apple has built up. Nearly $100 billion is "a massive amount to be sitting in the bank," says Nathan Olivarez-Giles in the Los Angeles Times. Apple could use that money to develop new products to stay ahead of the competition, or to pay dividends to shareholders, an idea Apple has long resisted. To put that pile of cash in perspective, tweets The Wall Street Journal's Dennis Berman, $97.6 billion is more than the worth of all but 52 companies worldwide.

5. Apple is the world's most valuable company
Unsurprisingly, Apple's stock price jumped after it released its rosy earning report, to about $450 a share. That makes Apple the most valuable company in America, barely topping Exxon Mobil in market value. "There are no words for what Apple just did," says the Mercury News' Owens, "so here are a bunch of numbers" to put it in context: This was the biggest quarter for any tech company ever, beating Samsung's $41 billion record; Apple's $46.3 billion in revenue is about the same as Tunisia's 2010 gross domestic product; Apple's $13.06 billion in quarterly profits eclipsed Google's entire $10.6 billion in revenue in the same quarter; and at $1.7 billion in revenue, even iTunes brought in more money by itself than all of Yahoo last quarter.

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