Apple's secret behind its enormous profits? It's still the best

Apple just announce the biggest profits of any public company, ever. But its secret is simple: it's the best and it's going to get better, says David Phelan

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The Independent Tech

Apple’s unprecedented sales, record profits, and its latest innovation already garlanded as gadget of the year while it’s still waiting in the wings. No wonder Tim Cook’s smiling. The latest financials from the company has made it the most profitable in the world, outstripping Exxon for size again.

Most of this comes from the iPhone, which critics had been writing off only a couple of years ago, saying the iPhone 5, 5c and 5s were uninspired and lagging behind the competition. Even some Apple purists were switching to rival phones like the Motorola Moto X, saying that Apple was no longer worth the substantial price difference.

Leaving aside that those iPhones sold, and in the case of the 5c and 5s still being sold, in huge numbers, everything changed in September when the iPhone 6 was revealed. At last – a bigger screen that customers had been begging for. Finally – a super-size version to nail those markets like China where bigger is not better, it’s essential.

And with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple did what it does best: matched strong technology with ground-breaking design.

10-iPhone-6-Getty.jpg The iPhone 6, like the original iPhone and the iPhone 4, was a handset which changed the design language, as rival phones are beginning to show. Apple is not the only innovator: HTC’s brilliant use of metal and Nokia’s emphasis on gloss polycarbonate are outstanding. But Apple has managed to add greater levels of aesthetic appeal to the mix, fusing design and function more completely.

Like the feature on the latest phones which means that by resting your thumb on the home button twice, the entire screen contents shoot downwards so nothing is ever out of reach, even on the 5.5-inch display of the iPhone 6 Plus.

Or the successful introduction in the United States of Apple Pay. Google and Samsung phones have had systems to make payment as simple as swiping an Oyster card for years. But Apple waited until it could make the arrangement instant and painless, building fingerprints into it for extra security.

The cameras on the new iPhones are only eight-megapixel resolution, peanuts compared to the 20.7-megapixel sensors on rivals. But Apple has ensured that taking photos on your phone is sublimely easy, with few settings and options to baffle the user. More importantly, it’s extremely fast, and the substantial dollops of image processing that the camera insists on adding are effectively done. Even when it comes to the photos it takes, the iPhone has style.

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Children learn on iPads during an Hour of Code session at Apple Store Kurfürstendamm, in Berlin

But iPad sales aren’t as giddy as the phone. Some people who were considering an iPad mini alongside their phone may feel the bigger screens mean they only need one gadget. And of course, there’s no two-year contract with most tablets, so no sudden need to upgrade.

Don’t write off the tablet just yet, especially if rumours of the bigger iPad Plus (or whatever it’s called) take shape this year. It may be that sales will plateau at current figures for now, especially with people finding budget models like the Tesco Hudl2 perfectly adequate. But the iPad isn’t yet the iPod issue, with sales declining because people have full iPod capabilities in their phone. The big screen of the iPad Air 2 is hard to beat.

And this year is likely to get even better for Apple, with the release in April of the Apple Watch. Even if this is mostly sold to Apple fans in the early days, it will be something that everyone wants to know about. Of course, there are issues to do with longevity – will people really want to buy a new watch every year or two just to get the latest processor, for instance?

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But the Apple Watch will capture the public’s imagination in the way that no other wearable tech has. If Apple gets the basics right (enough battery life, slick operation, genuinely useful features), the company’s halo of cool could make it a fashionable success quickly.

And if the much-rumoured Apple television set really does come to fruition this year, the company will be changing its identity yet again. People will wonder if it really should be making TVs. They had previously asked if a computer company should be branching out into making music players.

Tim Cook has finally made Apple his own, though he would always champion the influence and importance of Steve Jobs. The year ahead could be Apple’s most successful. Or not. Either way, it’ll be fascinating and the most transformative time in the company’s history.

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