Why Apple stopped reporting unit sales

Wall Street has never really understood Apple. Is that Wall Street's problem or Apple's? Depends how you look at it and what you want. It's in everyone's best interests, though, for Apple and Wall Street to get on the same page. Not the short-sighted, gambler's paradox, always doomed narrative Wall Street seems fixated on. And not the leave-us-alone-and-just-count-your-money reality Apple would probably prefer. But, a reasonable narrative everyone can get behind.

With Apple recently announcing it was going to stop reporting unit sales, and the tizzy that was set off around that, Neil Cybart thinks it will set up a new way forward:

From Above Avalon:

Apple's narrative problem was relatively straightforward: The key variables management focused on in earnings releases and conference calls weren't sustainable. By placing an emphasis on unit sales, the inevitable slowdown in unit sales growth for its largest product categories posed a problem for Apple.Forcing Wall Street to move beyond unit sales and focus on revenue and gross margins isn't about driving home a Services narrative for AAPL shares. Instead, it's a big step in elevating a capital allocation narrative. Compelling tools will lead to strong revenue trends and margins, which support attractive free cash flow and consequently more cash for buyback and cash dividends. The opposite is true as well with weaker product sales leading to a reduction in cash flow and less cash for share repurchases and cash dividends.

Neil's just about the best in the business at understanding this stuff, so give the whole thing a read.

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Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

1 Comment
  • 1. Only Apple ever reported the number of units sold to consumers. Everyone is sales to resellers and, umm, nothing to speak of regarding returns from resellers.
    2. For investors, it's nice to know what's selling how well, but that info is all after the fact. However, that info is all after the fact. As Ben Bajarin just noted the other day, at least when it comes to the phones, different models sell differently during different quarters. Knowing last quarters' sales isn't actually very useful.
    3. Since forever, Apple doesn't give a f*** about stock price which is to say they don't give same regarding Wall Street. Apple builds cool stuff which usually sells well with huge profit margins. Doing that causes the stock to rise long term. That other companies' stocks do much better while losing money -- Tesla for one, and Netflix -- is of approximately zero concern to Apple.