The Information’s Martin Peers calls Apple mediocre, uninspiring and anemic

“It’s easy to overlook a reality of Apple’s financial performance amid the fanboy-led drooling over purple iPhones and beautiful iMacs.”

Full text of the first item in Peers’ “The Briefing,” mailed Friday to The Information subscribers:

Get ready. All five of the big tech companies—Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft—are reporting earnings next week. And just to keep us on our toes, Twitter and Pinterest are releasing their results as well. Of all the companies, the one that probably deserves the most attention is Apple.

It’s easy to overlook a reality of Apple’s financial performance amid the fanboy-led drooling over purple iPhones and beautiful iMacs, but the world’s most valuable company has been a mediocre performer when it comes to growth over the past few years. Between 2015 and 2020, Apple’s revenue grew just 17%, and its net income rose just 7.5%. And if you don’t believe that’s slow growth, consider that in the same five-year period, Alphabet’s revenue rose 143% and Microsoft’s top line expanded by 53%. And no one would say either Alphabet nor Microsoft had been rocket ships in recent years.

At the core of Apple’s uninspiring performance is softer iPhone sales: They dropped in 2015, and, aside from one good year in 2018, flatlined at a lower level through fiscal 2020. Meanwhile, sales of iPads and Macs have barely grown. The only things providing any uplift were wearable items like the Apple Watch—and services. That last item includes all those subscription offerings Apple keeps rolling out as well as the App Store. Little wonder, then, that Apple is fighting so ferociously to protect the App Store’s business in the face of legal assaults and congressional inquiries.

That gets us back to next week’s report, the second quarterly update for Apple’s 2021 fiscal year. Wall Street analysts are projecting that Apple will break out of its anemic growth this year, delivering a 22% revenue gain at $333.7 billion, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. The first fiscal quarter delivered growth in line with that, mostly thanks to renewed growth in iPhone sales as well as an uptick in all other parts of the business. Next week will give us a sense of whether Apple is still on track to meet those expectations. Investors are uncharacteristically cautious: Apple stock is barely up so far this year, after a strong rally in 2020. The company reports on Wednesday. Stay tuned.

My take: Haters gotta hate, but Mr. Peers really had to twist himself into a pretzel to argue that after AAPL’s unexplained 80% gains in calendar 2020 and Apple’s record fiscal Q1 results that investors should “stay tuned” for some kind of disappointment on Wednesday. I expect better from The Information’s managing editor.

22 Comments

  1. The number of Apple ecosystem participants worldwide is rapidly approaching 2 billion.
    With ‘only’ 113 million iPhone users in the US Apple is very diversified across the global economy. ARPU was what Ma Bell taught me to focus on. Apple’s 2020 ARPU was ~$2.70/month and is expected to rise to $3.50/month by FY25.
    Find me a public firm that gets along so well with the governments and citizens of so many nations and profits from doing so. 95% gains over the last 12 months. 473% over the past 5 years. 31% YoY 2Q growth expected, during a national health crisis. Encouraging people to exercise more often all the while.
    I’m certain there are some investors poised to take profits at a peak in share price over the next few days. Mr. Peers is goading them on, hoping they sell Apple only to buy all the other shares languishing in the markets. Next year they’ll wish they held onto those Apple shares.

    29
    April 24, 2021
  2. Jerry Doyle said:
    I am finding it difficult to stop the flow of tears from laughing. Apple is the number one stock holding in investors’ portfolios & it was reported yesterday millennials have flocked to Apple as one of their top choice stock holdings. I also suspect millennials purchase products from the company in which they invest. All I have to do to keep laughing is glance over at my portfolio & view my Apple’s monetary returns for the past five years of which Mr. Peers speaks. Oh, bring it on! Give me more Apple in more ways than one: as a stock investment, as purchase of new Apple products & services, as the pilgrimage of desire to start once again my 4,000 mile annual trek to the shareholders meeting at the Mecca gathering on the Cupertino Apple campus, as a proud shareholder invested in a company held in esteem as the epitome of advancement in humanitarian, social, cultural and environmental causes and a company CEO who serves as a role model for good. Mr. Peers seems so unenlightened, so oblivious, so uninformed, an apprentice at what he does in covering the global tech giant of the era.

    27
    April 24, 2021
  3. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    Pretzel Peers all carbs, no protein.

    28
    April 24, 2021
  4. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    EARNED their customers (as in, non-free)…

    A worldwide steadily growing “fandom” user base…

    98% satisfaction rating…

    Design-envied affordable-luxury products…

    Growing lock-in subscription business…

    Fattest wallet…

    Superb leadership…

    Highly respected and admired…

    Standard-setting world citizen…

    Privacy and integrity.

    Not worthy of investment. Sell…Apple IS doomed.

    22
    April 24, 2021
    • Kirk DeBernardi said:
      One more…

      Vision for the future.

      19
      April 24, 2021
    • Fred Stein said:
      Great list. Succinct.

      One more: Unbeatable lead in silicon.

      19
      April 24, 2021
      • Kirk DeBernardi said:
        @ Fred Stein —

        Thanks, brother Fred.

        Was hoping others would jump in.

        😉

        16
        April 24, 2021
  5. Fred Stein said:
    Revenue:
    2014: $120B
    2015: $155B
    2016: $137B
    Figures don’t lie, but….

    15
    April 24, 2021
    • Bart Yee said:
      @Fred 2014 was the year of the Still counting iPhones, don’t these people listen to Cook?

      From the iPhone perspective. 2014 had iPhone 5S which was the slim small Jobs phone just as the larger format phablets took hold in the marketplace. 2015 brought the larger iPhone 6/6+ and pent up demand, particularly in China, brought a huge spike in revenue. The following 6S/6S+ was a good seller but less than the 6.

      8
      April 25, 2021
      • Bart Yee said:
        Apple annual revenue gross & iPhone in $B, FY iPhone model plus macroecon effects
        2013 170.9 – 91.3 iPhone 5
        2014 182.8 – 102.0 iPhone 5S
        2015 233.7 – 155.0 iPhone 6/6+
        2016 215.6 – 136.7 iPhone 6S/6S+
        2017 229.2 – 151.3 iPhone 7/7+
        2018 265.6 – 166.7 iPhone 8/8+, X, Tax Cut enacted
        2019 260.2 – 142.4 iPhone XS/XS+, XR series, trade war & China sales drop, slowing overall smartphone market, note growing non-iPhone revenue.
        2020 274.5 – 137.8 iPhone 11 series, SE, pandemic

        So despite “the law of big numbers”, moderating iPhone sales, and external macroeconomic or political headwinds, Apple keeps growing revenue as a diversified product and services company, something people like Peers won’t acknowledge. Apple has diversified and grown non-iPhone revenue just as Cook said and promised plus solidified its silicon ambitions which will pay dividends with advanced hardware products from here on out.

        8
        April 25, 2021
  6. Joe Murphy said:
    Continuing the list ..

    Toes the line when challenged – albeit Government, competitor or other.

    13
    April 24, 2021
  7. John Konopka said:
    Reminds me of when the iPod mini first came out. The pundits trashed it on the basis of dollars per megabyte. Customers bought them by the boatload because they liked the small size , light weight and colors. It’s hard when you hear the notes but not the music.

    11
    April 24, 2021
  8. Horace Dediu said:
    I, for one, am not overlooking the reality of Apple’s financial performance.

    As I wrote in a recent tweet: Apparently the estimates for $AAPL CQ1 are year-over-year growth of 53% in earnings and 32% in sales. The previous quarter saw 35% and 21% respectively. Shares are unchanged during this time. Since September 1st there were two -20% drops ($134/share to $106 in Sept and $145 to $116 Feb/March).

    9
    April 25, 2021
  9. Ken Cheng said:
    If an article uses “fanboy” or any derivative thereof, then it’s just trolling.

    7
    April 25, 2021
    • David Emery said:
      At what point does Earth become “planet fanboy”?

      5
      April 25, 2021

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