Apple CEO Tim Cook and CFO Luca Maestri spoke with analysts during the company's Q2 2017 earnings call. Here's our ongoing live transcript of their remarks! If you want more info on Apple's results, we recommend checking out the awesome charts from Six Colors.
Cook's opening remarks
Good afternoon and thank you for joining us. Today we are reporting strong March quarter results with accelerating revenue growth and earnings per share up 10% over last year. We feel great about this performance.
Revenue was $52.9 billion — near the high end of our guidance range. Global revenue was up 5% year on year with growth accelerating from our December quarter performance. That's despite a $1 billion year-over-year revenue headwind from foreign exchange in the March quarter and a larger iPhone channel inventory reduction this year versus last year.
iPhone sales were in line with our expectations and we're thrilled to see the continued strong demand for iPhone 7 Plus with its beautiful large display and dual camera system. Our active install base for iPhones grew by double digits year over year and based on the latest data from IDC, we gained market share in nearly every country we tried. Late in the quarter we released the stunning (Product)RED special edition versions of iPhone 7 and 7 Plus in recognition of 10 years of our partnership with RED. This relationship has given our customers an unprecedented way to contribute to the global fund and bring the world closer to an AIDS-free generation. We've seen wonderful customer response to these eye-popping new iPhones.
For the second quarter in a row, our services revenue topped $7 billion and it's well on the way to being the size of a fortune 100 company. We're very happy to see the deep level of customer engagement with the Apple ecosystem across all of our services. App store momentum is terrific, with revenue growing 40% year over year to an all-time quarterly record. The number of developers offering apps for sale on our store was up 26% over last year and we're thrilled to see their success. We also saw double-digit revenue growth from Apple Music subscriptions and iCloud storage, and overall very strong growth in the total number of paid subscriptions for our own services and the third party content we offer on our stores.
Paid subscriptions now exceed 165 million. Apple Pay is experiencing phenomenal traction. With the launch of Taiwan and Ireland in the March quarter, Apple Pay is now live in 15 markets, with more than 20 million contactless-ready locations, including more than 4.5 million locations accepting Apple Pay in the U.S. alone. We're seeing strong, growing usage as points of acceptance expand with transaction volume up 450% over the last 12 months.
In the UK, for example, points of acceptance have grown by 44% in the last year while monthly Apple Pay transactions have grown by nearly 300%. In Japan, where Apple Pay launched last October, more than half a million transit users are completing 20 million Apple Pay transactions per month and we're always excited to see our partners bring their customers new ways to use Apple Pay. You can now even send a Starbucks gift card via iMessage with just a touch. We're seeing great momentum from our powerful advances in iMessage. In fact, at one point during the Super Bowl in February, customers were sending 380,000 messages per second — more than double the previous year.
A few weeks ago,we introduced Clips, a new app that's another great example how we're continually making our produtcs even more engaging and it's off to a great start. With Clips, it's fun and easy to combine video, photos, and music on an iPhone or an iPad into great-looking expressive videos with great visual effects and titles just using your voice, then share your Clips with friends through the Messages app or on social media.
We had great Mac results during the quarter. Revenue grew 14% to a new March quarter record and gained market share thanks to strong demand for our new MacBook Pros. Our Mac business has generated over $25 billion in revenue over the past four quarters. We're investing aggressively in its future and we are very excited about the innovation we can bring to the platform.
We also updated our most-popular sized iPad with a brighter retina display and best-in-class performance at its most affordable price ever and customer response to date has been very strong. iPad results were ahead of our expectations and we believe we gained shares in a number of major markets including the U.S., Japan, and Australia. iPad remains the world's most popular tablet and it's the primary computing device for millions of customers across the globe.
Building on the momentum from the holiday quarter, Apple Watch sales nearly doubled year over year. Apple Watch is the best selling and most loved smartwatch in the world and we hear wonderful stories from our customers about its impact on our fitness and health.
We're also seeing great response to AirPods with a 98% customer satisfaction rating based on a recent Creative Strategies survey. Demand for AirPods significantly exceeds supply and growth in Beats products has also been very strong. In fact, when we combine Apple Watch, AirPods, and Beats headphones, our revenues from wearable products in the last four quarters was the size of a Fortune 500 company.
In Greater China, we were very pleased to see strong, double-digit revenue growth from both Mac and services during the March quarter. We also had great results from our retail stores in mainland China, with total store revenue up 27% over last year and compstore revenue up 7%. These results contributed to our improving performance in Greater China. Through the first two quarters of fiscal 2017, our year over year comparisons improved significantly over the last two quarters of fiscal 2016. First-half revenue was down 13% year-over-year, about a third of which was attributable to FX. That's in contrast to a 32% revenue decline in the second half of last year. Our March quarter results were in line with our expectations and similar to the year-over-year performance we experienced in the December quarter. We continue to be very enthusiastic about our opportunity in China.
We set a new March quarter record in India where revenue grew by strong double digits. We continue to strengthen our local presence across the entire ecosystem and we're very optimistic about our future in this remarkable country with its very large, young, and tech-savvy population, fast-growing economy, and improving 4G network infrastructure.
Apple Retail is entering an exciting chapter with new experiences for customers and breathtaking new store designs. With the opening of our newest store in Dubai this past weekend, we now have 495 retail locations worldwide. The new Apple Dubai Mall is a truly international store, with employees who collectively speak 45 languages and are already welcoming customers from around the world.
As Luca will discuss in a moment, today we're also providing an update to our capital return program. Given our strong confidence in our future, we're increasing the program's size by $50 billion, bringing the total to $300 billion, and we're extending the time frame through March of 2019. We're adding to our share repurchase authorization and increasing our dividend for the fifth time in less than five years.
We're very excited about our upcoming World Wide Developers Conference taking place in San Jose next month. The conference is significantly oversubscribed and we'll be welcoming thousands of attendees. We look forward to helping them learn about breakthrough technologies across all four of our software platforms: iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS that enable developers to create incredible experiences for every aspect of customers' lives and improve the way they manage their homes, cars, health, and more.
I'm very proud to mention that we recently released our tenth annual Environmental Responsibility Report, reflecting our amazing progress. In 2016, 96% of the electricity used at Apple's global facilities came from renewable sources of energy, reducing our carbon emissions by nearly 585,000 metric tons. We're now 100% renewable in 24 countries, including all of Apple's data centers. There's much more work to be done but we're committed to leaving the world better than we found it.
Closer to home, we're excited about moving into our new corporate headquarters, Apple Park, our new center for innovation. The main building on Apple Park is designed to house 13,000 employees under one roof in an environment that fosters even greater collaboration among our incredibly talented team. We have many more ongoing investments in the U.S. economy since Apple is a company that could only have been created in America.Through our innovative products and the success of our business we're incredibly proud to support more than 2 million jobs in all 50 states and we expect to create even more. Last fiscal year we spent more than $50 billion in the United States with American suppliers, developers, and partners and we continue to invest confidently in our future.
Now for more details on the March quarter results, I'd like to turn the call over to Luca.
Thank you, Tim. Good afternoon, everyone. Revenue for the March quarter was 52.9 billion and we achieved double-digit growth in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, Turkey, and Mexico. Our growth-rates were even higher — over 20% — in many other markets, including Brazil, Scandinavia, the Middle East, Central and Eastern Europe, India, Korea, and Thailand. Gross margin was 38.9% at the high end of our guidance range — that's a sequential increase from 38.5% in the December quarter, which is particularly impressive given the seasonal loss of leverage, sequential foreign exchange headwinds of 100 basis points, and cost pressures on certain commodities. Operating margin was 26.7% of revenue and that income was $11 billion. Diluted earnings per share were $2.10 — an increase of 10% over last year — and cash-flow from operations was strong at 12.5 billion.
For details by product, I'll start with iPhone. We sold 50.8 million iPhones and we reduced iPhone channel inventory by 1.2 million units in the quarter, compared to a reduction of about 450,000 a year ago. So our iPhone performance was slightly better than last year on a sell-through basis. We had very solid iPhone growth in four of our five operating segments and experienced especially strong results in Western Europe, the Middle East, and the rest of the Asia Pacific segment — all areas of the world where iPhone sales were up double digits. iPhone ASP was $655, up from $642 a year ago thanks to a strong mix of iPhone 7 Plus, and in spite of unfavorable foreign exchange rates. We exited the March quarter within our five to seven week target channel inventory range.
Customer interest and satisfaction with iPhone are very strong, not only with consumers but also with business users. In the U.S., the latest data from 451 Research on consumers indicates a 96% customer satisfaction rating among iPhone 7 owners and 98% for iPhone 7 Plus. Among corporate smartphone buyers, iPhone customer satisfaction was 95% and of those planning to purchase smartphones in the June quarter, 79% planned to purchase iPhone.
Turning to services, we generated 7 billion in revenue, an increase of 18% year-over-year, and our best results ever for a 13-week quarter. We're very happy with the strong level of growth, especially given the tough compare to last year as the busy week between Christmas and New Year fell within the March fiscal quarter a year ago, but was included in the December fiscal quarter this year. As we said last quarter, our goal is to double the size of our services business by 2020.
The App Store established a new all-time revenue record and grew 40% year over year. We continue to see growth in average revenue per paying account, as well as the number of paying accounts across our content stores during the quarter. In fact, the quarterly increase in the number of paying accounts was the largest we ever experienced. According to App Annie's latest report, the App Store continues to be the preferred destination for customer purchases, generating twice the revenue of Google Play during the March quarter.
Next I'd like to talk about the Mac. Revenue was up 14% year over and set a new March quarter record. We sold 4.2 million Macs, up 4% over last year, compared to zero growth in the PC market, according to IDC's latest forecast. Demand for MacBook Pro was very strong, helping to drive overall portables growth of 10 %, twice the growth of the portables market. We ended the quarter at the low end of our four to five week target range for Mac channel inventory.
Turning to iPad, we sold 8.9 million units which was ahead of our expectations despite supply constraints throughout the quarter. We're very pleased to see iPad growth in the U.S. during the March quarter and revenue growth worldwide for our 9.7-inch and our larger iPads over the last four quarters. iPad channel inventory was essentially flat from the beginning to the end of the quarter and we exited just below our five to seven week target range. iPad remains very successful in the segment of the tablet market where we compete. Recent data from NPD indicates that iPad had 81% share of the U.S. market for tablets priced above $200. And in February, 451 Research measured consumer satisfaction rates for iPad that ranged from 95% for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro to 100% for the 12.9-inch version. Among U.S. consumers planning to purchase a tablet within the next six months, purchase intention for iPad was 69%. Corporate buyers report a 96% satisfaction rate and a purchase intent of 68% for the June quarter.
All our products continue to be extremely popular and drive mobile transformation in the enterprise market. We set a new enterprise revenue record for the March quarter and we expect this momentum to continue for the remainder of the year. Recently Volkswagen selected iPhone as their corporate standard smartphone, so 620,000 employees around the world have the opportunity to enjoy the best-in-class mobile experience that iPhone offers. Capital One has reimagined the customer banking experience by empowering their associates with Mac and Apple Watch and over 40 native iOS applications now running on nearly 30,000 iPhone and iPads. We're also seeing strong momentum with our enterprise partners who are helping us deliver long-lasting innovation and differentiation for iOS versus competing platforms. The -- partnership is off to a great start with more than 115 customer opportunities in the pipeline across 15 different industries. SAP released the SAP cloud platform SDK for iOS at the end of March and over 3 million SAP developers now have an even better means to develop powerful iOS-native apps for the enterprise. The partnership with CISCO enables optimized performance of iOS devices over their networks and is generating a large and growing pipeline of opportunities across multiple verticals, including healthcare and financial services. Our partnership with IBM continues to drive greater productivity and innovation. With IBM, mobilefirst for iOS apps now in more than 300,300 client engagements. And with its mobile-scale offering, IBM recently closed an agreement to deploy 11,000 iOS devices at -- bank to drive digital transformation.
Our retail and online stores produced great results with strong revenue growth in all our geographic segments and 18% growth overall. Visitors to our retail and online stores are up 16% over last year and we added four new stores during the March quarter. With the opening of our store in Dubai last week, we're now at 495 stores in 18 countries.
Let me now turn to our cash position: We ended the quarter with $256.8 billion in cash plus marketable securities, a sequential increase of $10.8 billion — $239.6 billion of this cash, or 93% of the total, was outside of the United States. We issued $11 billion in debt during the quarter, bringing us to $88.5 billion in term debt and $10 billion in commercial paper outstanding. We returned over $10 billion to investors over the quarter. We paid $3 billion in dividends and equivalents and we spent $4 billion on repurchases of $31.1 million Apple shares through open market transactions. We also launched a new $3 billion ASR, resulting in initial delivery and retirement of 17.5 million shares and we retired 6.3 million shares upon the completion of our 9th accelerated share repurchase program in February. All of these activities contributed to a net diluted share count reduction of 66.3 million shares in the quarter. We have now completed $211.2 billion of our $250 billion capital return program, including $151 billion in share repurchases. As Tim mentioned, today we're announcing an update to our program, which we're extending by four quarters through March of 2019 and increasing in size to a total of $300 billion. Once again, given our strong confidence in Apple's future and the value we see in our stock, we're allocating the majority of the program expansion to share repurchases. Our board has increased the share-repurchase authorization by $35 billion, raising it from the current $175 billion-level to $210 billion. We will also continue to net-share settle vesting employees restrictive stock units. In addition, we're raising our dividend for the fifth time in less than five years as we know this is very important to many of our investors who value income. The quarterly dividend will grow from 57 cents to 63 cents per share, an increase of 10.5%. This is effective with our next dividend which the board has declared today, payable on May 18, 2017 with shareholders of record as of May 15, 2017. With over $12 billion in annual dividend payments, we're proud to be one of the largest dividend-payers in the world and we continue to plan for annual dividend increases going forward. In total, with this updated program, during the next eight quarters we expect to return $89 billion to our investors, which represents about 12% of our market cap at the current stock price. We expect to continue to fund our capital return program with current US cash, future US cash generation, and borrowing from both domestic and international debt markets. We will continue to review capital allocation regularly taking into account the needs of our business, investment opportunities, and our financial outlook. We will also continue to solicit input on our program from a broad base of shareholders. This approach will allow us to be flexible and thoughtful about the size, the mix, and the pace of our program.
As we move ahead into the June quarter, I'd like to review our outlook which includes the types of forward-looking information that Nancy referred to at the beginning of the call. We expect revenue to be between $43.5 and $45.5 billion. We expect gross margin to be between 37.5 and 38.5%. We expect -- to be between $6.6 and $6.7 billion. We expect OINE to be about $450 million. We expect the tax rate to be about 25.5%.
On Qualcomm and Apple's decision to halt royalty payments
Katy Huberty, Morgan Stanley My first question is for Luca, around gross margins. How were you able to expand gross margins sequentially and guide rather seasonally for the June quarter in light of what's going on in the memory market? And maybe if you can comment in particular whether the hold back of payments to Qualcomm is benefiting you at all on gross margins year on year? And also, whether your contracts around commodity prices is likely to hit gross margins by more in the back half of this calendar year.
Thank you, Katie. A lot of questions. Let me take it one by one. Let me start with the performance for the March quarter, which we were very happy with. As you said, we were up 40 basis points sequentially and this is in spite of the fact as you know that we lose leverage as we go from the December quarter to the March quarter, foreign-exchange headwind on a sequential basis 100 basis points. Obviously that was also a negative and as you said we started to experience some level of cost pressure on the memory side particularly on on and on NAND and DRAM. To offset that and actually do better than that, we had very good cost performance on other commodities. And the fact that our services mix increases as we go through the year, that is, of course, also helping. Given the profile of our gross margin for services. But that answers the question around Q2. As we move into the June quarter, as you know we tend to have some level of gross margin compression as we go from the March quarter to the June quarter — again, the majority of that comes from the sequential loss of leverage, we also have a different mix of products as we move into the June quarter, and the cost pressures on memory will remain. We expect to offset, partially, these impacts with other cost efficiencies and a mixed shift towards services. The impact on NAND and DRAM will continue to be there and we expect it to be there. You know we don't guide past the June quarter but we expect it to be there for the time being. On Qualcomm, I just want to make it very, very clear that we are accruing. We do not expect to be paying more than what we are accruing right now, so we didn't get any benefit in our margins during the March quarter and we're not getting any benefit during the June quarter either.
On the supply-constrained iPhone 7 launch
OK, thank you, and just a follow-up for Tim: As you noted in your remarks, the iPhone 7 Plus demand is selling incredibly well. And this is a product that was pretty severely supply-constrained in the December quarter. I just wonder whether there are any lessons learned as you go forward into future product launches around how you manage the timing of announcing a product when there's supply constraints and how you might work with the supply chain differently around ramping some of these components that have particular difficulties around the yields early on.
Katy, one of the things that we did not get right was the mix between the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus. It wound up the demand was much stronger to the 7 Plus than we had predicted, so it took us a little while to adjust all the way back through the supply chain and to bring iPhone 7 Plus into balance which occurred early this past quarter. What did we learn from it? Every time we go through a launch, we learn something. You can bet we're brushing our models and we'll apply everything we learned to the next time.
On Apple's numbers in China and weak performance in Hong Kong
Shannon Cross, Cross Research Tim, can you talk a bit about what's going on in China and give us some more color especially as you're going through the year and then — obviously we won't talk about the next product launch — but just, are there any shifts in demand with greater China down 14%? Was it all iPhone or mix? Anything you can provide and then I have a follow-up.
Thanks for the question, Shannon. We saw in Q2 a performance that, combined with Q1, formed the first half of the year was much better than what we experienced in the second half of last year. And if you look at what was driving that, iPhone 7 Plus — we sold the highest number of Plus models in the first half than ever before compared to 6s Plus or compared to the 6 Plus. Also the Mac business did extremely well — Mac revenue growth was up 20% in China and we had extremely strong services growth during the quarter in China. As I mentioned in my comments, our retail and online stores did well overall and in China. They grew by 21%, which is an acceleration from what we had seen in the previous quarter. And traffic, which for us is incredibly important in the retail stores because we do a lot more than sell, traffic was up 27% year on year. And now seven of our top 10 highest trafficked stores are in greater China. And so that's the set of things that sort of went in our direction, so to speak. On the flip side, currency devalued by 5%, so that's not an insignificant headwind. And our performance continued to be weak in Hong Kong, which has been hit a bit harder as the tourism market continues to slump. Also where the iPhone 7 Plus did well, we didn't perform as well on some of the previous generation iPhones. So that's sort of the set of things on the plus and minus side. We did perform about where I thought we would — I thought it would be similar to the previous quarter and it was. What I now believe is we'll improve a bit more during this current quarter — not back to growth, but make more progress and we continue to believe that there's an enormous opportunity there. Y'know, in the scheme of things, our business is pretty large there.
On Apple's plans for its massive amount of cash
Alright, thank you. I don't know if Luca wants to take this, but thoughts on cash usage? Y'know, you increased your program but you still have, I think, 160 billion of net cash and obviously continue to generate cash. So I'm curious — given some of the commentary that's come out of the administration, which I think most companies were expecting some sort of a return, how do you generally think about what you need to run the business from a cash perspective, how you think about the balance sheet from a strength perspective, just, y'know, as we look forward to what hopefully will come through.
Shannon, you know how we run our capital return program we've been pretty consistent during the last five years. Essentially for the last five years the way we've run the company is essentially to return our free cash flow to our investors. That's what we've done with the program until now. And you know the expansion of the program that we've announced today goes in the same direction. Right? We know how much we need to invest in that business. We will never underinvest in the business. We are in a very fortunate position that we generate cash beyond the needs that we have and given the current capital structure that we have, we decided that until now we return about 100 percent of the free cash flow to investors. It is difficult for us to speculate about what might or might not happen. The program that we're announcing today reflects the current tax legislation in this country and there's a lot that still needs to happen there and we'll see. Obviously we will reassess our situation if things change.
On Apple's growing subscriber base
Rod Hall, J.P. Morgan I wanted to start off just going back to the 165 million subscriptions and ask Tim or Luca if you could comment on the unique number of users there and I think you had made a comment, Tim, in your prepared remarks that the average revenue per user is up or maybe that was you Luca? But if you guys could just talk about you know any more color around that average revenue per user it would be interesting to us.
We don't disclose into this number of subscriptions of course. We're just giving you that the total count of subscriptions that are out there. Of course there are several customers that subscribe to more than one of our services. There is some level of overlap but the total number of subscribers is very, very large. Obviously, less than 165 million. But it's very good for us to see the breadth of subscriptions that we offer and that customers are interested in. It's a large number. And if you remember, we quoted the same number a quarter ago and we talked about 150 million. So when you think about a sequential increase of 15 million subscriptions from the December quarter to the March quarter, it really gives you a sense for the momentum that we have on our content stores. It's quite impressive to have 15 million subscriptions in 90 days. As we look at the dynamics that are happening on our content stores and particularly on the App Store, which is the largest, we see fairly consistently two things: We see that the number of paying accounts is growing a lot, and I mentioned the increase in number of paying accounts that we've had during these last 90 days is the largest that we've ever had. So there's a very large number of people coming into the ecosystem, experiencing the ecosystem which is obviously improving all the time in quality and quantity, and then start paying and transacting on our stores. And that number is growing very very, strongly strong double digits.
What we're also seeing as we look at the people that start paying on our stores, we see a pretty common trend over time, and we keep track of that across cohorts of customers, that as people come into the ecosystem and start paying on the ecosystem, we see a spending profile that is very similar around the world. People start at a certain level and then they tend to spend more over time. And so obviously the combination of people spending more over time and having more people that are now actually spending on the stores, contributes to this 40 percent growth that Tim mentioned for the App Store on a year over year basis.
On pricing and profit of Apple's services business
Tim, I wanted to just ask… The services revenue keeps growing and of course the profit contribution from that is growing. And we've also at the same time I think seen you maybe a little more aggressive than Apple has been historically in pricing certain—key technologies lets call them, that maybe you want to penetrate the market with? And I just wonder if you could just comment a little bit on your strategy there in terms of the usage of that extra profit contribution from that services business. You know, how you intend to apply it to the rest of the business. Thank you.
Rod, the way that we think about pricing is, we come up with a price that we think is a good value for the product that we're delivering. And we do that on the hardware side as well as on the services side. And so that's how we think about it. We're really not thinking about taking profits from one to subsidize the other or vice versa.
On Apple's successful wearables business and the future of its wearable devices
Steve Milanovich, UBS Tim, could you comment on the opportunity in wearables? The watch some people consider disappointing, had what seems to be a very good quarter. And ironically the competition almost seems to be fading in that part of the market right now. The AirPods, of course, are doing well. Do you see wearables expanding over time into a broader product line and increasingly being independent of the iPhone longer term?
We have seen the watch as, you know, a really key product category for us since before we launched it. And we took our time to get it right. And we've made it even better with the Series 2 offering. And we're really proud of the growth of the business. You know, Watch units more than doubled in six of our top 10 markets, which is phenomenal growth particularly in a non-holiday quarter. And so we couldn't be more satisfied with it. As some people are doing, when you begin to combine the watch revenues with the revenues for AirPods, and as you know is the first full quarter of shipments for AirPods, it's still very much in the ramping mode and we're not even coming close to satisfying the demand. And then add the Beats products that a group of our customers really enjoy as well. And look on the trailing 12 months—this is not a forecast—that business was was well into the Fortune 500. And so as I look at that, that's pretty fast to come that far. You know the watch hasn't been out very long and AirPods have been out there for three, four months. And so we feel really great about it. Where does it go? I wouldn't want to comment on that. But we do have a really great pipeline here.
And I think in terms of competition falling out and so forth. The watch area is really hard. It in essence from an engineering point of view is similar to a phone in terms of the intricacies and so forth. And so I'm not very surprised that some people are falling out of it, but we're very committed to it and believe that it's already a big business and believe over time it will be even larger.
On 451 Research's iPhone survey and the reported decline in iPhone retention rate
You mentioned the 451 Research survey. They did have a couple of findings that were kind of interesting. One is a nine-year low in iPhone purchase intent, and that might just be where you are in the cycle, and the other was a declining retention rate in the US toward 80 percent. Any comment on either of those and whether you're concerned?
I only glanced at it. And so I haven't had time to study it but in general what we are seeing, we're seeing what we believe to be a pause in purchases on iPhone which we believe are due to the earlier and much more frequent reports about future iPhones. And so that part is clearly going on, and it could be what's behind the data. I don't know. But but we are seeing that, in full transparency.
More on Apple's decision to withhold royalty payments to Qualcomm
Toni Sacconaghi, Bernstein Tim, I'm wondering if you can comment on your recent decision and the rationale for withholding royalty payments to Qualcomm. And really specifically, I wonder what you believe is the risk that Qualcomm could have a detrimental response such as withholding modem chip sales or potentially even getting an injunction on iPhones in select geographies around the world. And I'd like to understand your perspective on whether either those are real risks to any degree. And why would Apple potentially take on those risks, you know, just in advance of what will arguably be your most significant and largest product launch in history?
Anyone that has a standards-essential patent has a responsibility to offer it to everyone that would like it under what are called FRAND terms. FRAND stands for "fair reasonable and nondiscriminatory" terms. That's both the price and the business terms. Qualcomm has not made such an offer to Apple. And so I don't believe anyone is going to decide to enjoin the iPhone based on that. I think that there's plenty of case law around that subject, but we shall see.
In terms of why we're withholding royalties. You can't pay something when there's a dispute about the amount. You don't know how much to pay. And so, you know, they think we owe some amount we think we owe a different amount. And there hasn't been a meeting of the minds there, and so at this point we need the courts to decide that. Unless we are able to over time settle between us on some amount. But right now we are depending upon the courts to do that. And so that is the thinking. The reason that we're pursuing this is that Qualcomm's trying to charge Apple a percentage of the total iPhone value, and they do some really great work around standards essential patents.
But it's one small part of what an iPhone is. It has nothing to do with the display or the Touch ID or a gazillion other innovations that Apple has done. And so we don't think that's right. And so we're taking a principled stand on it, and we strongly believe we're in the right. I'm sure they believe that they are. And that's what courts are for and we'll let it go with that.
On iPhone sales, upgrades, and switchers
Thank you. I was wondering if I could just follow up a little bit on iPhone demand. If I try and adjust for the drawdown in inventory and the extra week last quarter, I think sequentially iPhones declined about 27 percent if I make those adjustments. And that's actually quite a bit lower than the normal seasonality we would see from Q1 and Q2, which is typically closer to 20 percent. I understand your comments around China but your comparison was 40 points easier this quarter relative to last quarter and the growth rate improved only marginally, I think when you adjust for the extra week. And then you made a final comment around "a pause" on iPhones. So I'm wondering if you could maybe elaborate on what's the below-sequential, at least by my calculation, growth rate in Q2 attributable to a pause. And can you characterize what you think upgrade rates are doing perhaps broadly by geography, to help us better understand what might be happening or whether there are competitive dynamics that also are at play here that again might be contributing to that pause and that sequential decline that I referenced. Thank you.
Lot of questions there. Let me give you some color as I see it. In this quarter, we reduced channel inventory by 1.2 million units. And so if you look on a year-over-year basis, which is primarily what we look at from a unit point of view because it would have the seasonality embedded in that, we grew sell-through on a year-over-year basis. Last quarter, I'm sure other folks remember, was a 14-week quarter. So you sort of have to adjust the rates last quarter to get out what the underlying sell-through growth was. And so I think that when you do that you're going to find that actually the year over year performance is similar, between the quarters.
In terms of upgraders, we saw the largest absolute number of upgraders ever in any six-month period in the first half of this year. First half of this fiscal year, to precise. And we saw the largest absolute number of switchers outside of Greater China in the same period that we've ever seen. And so in four of the five operating segments, as I think Luca mentioned in his comments, we had very good growth and it was really propelled by the demand for iPhone 7 Plus which is growing incredibly fast around the world. And so that's kind of the color I would add there and hopefully some of that is useful for you.
On iPhone inventory
Simona Jankowski, Goldman Sachs Last year you had a 4 million unit channel inventory reduction for the iPhone in the June quarter. So just curious what you're expecting for this year. Just so we have an apples-to-apples comparison if we think about your guidance.
As you know, Simona, we do not provide guidance around units and around channel inventory reduction. But our goal is always to have the right amount of weeks of inventory in the channel. And if you look at our history over the last several years, we have fairly consistently reduced channel inventory in the June quarter, so I think it's a fair expectation to have.
On Apple's expansion into India and its affect on future sales
Tim, you've been excited about the India market for some time and have made strides in establishing a retail manufacturing and R&D presence there. So just curious, as you look at the market and the rollout of 4G there, is it reasonable for us to assume that Apple can sell something on the order of 10 to 20 million iPhones there next year and then grow from there.
Yeah, we make it a point not to forecast by geo. We just provide a current quarter forecast. But as hopefully you've seen, as we began to give you more information about India we've been investing quite a bit. We have a ton of energy going into the country on a number of fronts, and it is the third largest smartphone market in the world today behind China and the United States. And so we believe, particularly now that a 4G infrastructure is going in the country and it's continuing to be expanded, that there is a huge opportunity for Apple there. And so that's that, and the demographics of the country is why we're putting so much energy there.
On Apple's reception in India and methods by which it can expand in the country
Jim Suva, Citigroup Thank you very much and congratulations on returning to growth consistently. That's great. I believe, Tim, in your prepared comments, you mentioned India was growing double digits, which is great. But I believe if you look at geographic information, India is really under-penetrated from an Apple reception perceptive. But yet they have LTE, you have the iPhone SE, the lower priced iPhone. You think that, say, this next 12-18 months is going to be a turning point, or is it more you need to work with the government to have Apple own stores or production there, or what's it really going to take to get India going along, because we think it's really a great opportunity.
Well we think it's a great opportunity too. And so we're we're bringing all the things that we've brought to bear in other markets that we've eventually done well in. That's from channel to stores to our ecosystem and so forth. Phil was just over there opening a developer's center last quarter. So there are a ton of things going on there, and we agree that we are under-penetrated there. Our growth rates are are good—really good by most people's expectations, maybe not mine as much. And so we're putting a lot of energy in, just like we have in other geo's that eventually wound up producing more and more. And so I'm very excited about it. The 4G network investment really began rolling in in a significant way toward the last quarter of last year, as you know. But they are moving fast, they're moving at a speed that I have not seen, in any other country in the world, once they were started. And it is truly impressive.
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