Apple is now making so much money it's already bigger than Hong Kong in terms of GDP. Last quarter it sold 34,000 iPhones a second and it could afford to buy pretty much every other famous tech firm with change.
But how did a company that began as a bunch of hippies and nerds in a computer club get to be so big?
First of all, let's see just how big those numbers are:
Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones during the three months that ended on 31 December. That’s 34,000 iPhones an hour every day of the quarter. It's also more than the entire population of the UK:
Apple's total revenue for the first quarter was $74.6bn. If this trend continues for the next three quarters, that would bring total revenue to at least $298.4bn, which is a larger figure than the GDP of Hong Kong:
Apple made quarterly profits of $18bn. That's just under 25 per cent of the total estimated wealth of the world's richest man, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates:
Apple doesn't look set to slow down anytime soon. So, what's its secret?
Despite being an undeniable pioneer, Apple hasn’t ever really invented anything. Its three biggest launches in the past decade or so - the iPod, iPhone and iPad - have all been updated versions of products that already existed but weren’t making the most of their potential.
Even the innovation that drove Apple's recently announced record profits wasn't really new. Apple decided to make its phones bigger - years after everyone else had done.
But as Independent technology writer David Phelan notes, "with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple did what it does best: matched strong technology with ground-breaking design."
Apple doesn’t always do things first. But it almost always does them best.
Part of how they achieve that is by having a stronger sense of the importance of aesthetics and ease of use than its rivals. There might have been smartphones, tablets and MP3 players before Apple introduced its own versions, but many of them looked downright ugly and weren’t much fun to use.
The 10 best smartphones
The 10 best smartphones
1/10 iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
Apple’s latest comes in two varieties: the iPhone 6 (4.7- inch screen and only 6.9mm thick) and the iPhone 6 Plus – a larger (5.5-inch) version, more suited for those with gorillasized hands. The experience remains largely the same: expect sleek, beautiful apps in a package that ties you into their ecosystem. From £539, store.apple.com
2/10 ZTE Blade L2
At only £90, the Blade is the perfect price-point for making sure your kids are safe when they leave the house. The battery lasts for 23 hours, so they can contact you easily, wherever they are. 5MP camera and a 5-inch screen. £89.99, store.virginmedia.com
3/10 Sony Xperia Z3
Anyone who wants a full PlayStation experience should at least consider this phone, which allows you to stream PS4 games from your console to the phone’s screen from November this year. Remarkably, it’s also waterproof up to 1.5m – so if you’re clumsy or just love the beach, this could be for you. From £469.99, shop.ee.co.uk
4/10 Nokia 930
The base model comes in at 32GB of storage. The main attraction to the Nokia Lumia range is a 4.5-inch ClearBlack screen with its brilliant contrast. The Microsoft Office app is among the best for any writer. For anyone who isn’t tied into Android or iOS this is a strong choice. Free on plans from £30.50/month, shop.vodafone.co.uk
5/10 Amazon Fire
Perfect for the Shazam generation you can point this phone – which works like any other Android phone – at pretty much anything and it will tell you what it is, how much it is, and where to buy it. Not for everyone, but if you’re a consumer it will likely change how you shop. Free, only on contract, amazon.co.uk
6/10 Moto G
Although it lacks the bells and whistles of the more expensive phones on the list, it’s still a great phone for its price, with access to emails, Facebook and more. Ideal for anyone who’s feeling the pinch this autumn. £90, shop.vodafone.co.uk
7/10 HTC One M8
The camera on the M8 has a special depth sensor for quicker focusing and clearer pictures. The phone itself is 90 per cent metal, so it doesn’t feel plasticy or liable to breaking. Also has front facing speakers and builtin amplifiers for those last barbecues of the season. £549.99, shop.emea.htc.com
8/10 LG G3
With its 5.5-inch screen the G3 is the same size as the iPhone 6 Plus but in an Android package. It has a 13MP camera with a laser focus, can charge wirelessly but isn’t waterproof or dust-resistant like some of the other phones on this list. £479.95, carphonewarehouse.com
9/10 Samsung Galaxy Alpha
The latest Samsung looks set to replace my personal phone. It’s got a 4.7-imch Super AMOLED screen but the main attraction is Samsung’s “Ultra Power-Saving Mode”, which turns the smart-beast’s screen into greyscale and limits the apps you can use, allowing it to run for days. From £449.99, shop.ee.co.uk
10/10 Nexus 5
Rumours of a new Google phone are rampant at the moment but their last offering, the Nexus 5, still packs a punch. The 5-inch screen is made from Gorilla Glass 3, so should resist a bunch of scratches. £299, play.google.com
To do that, Apple doesn’t usually cut down on quality - its products usually have the same kind of technological innovations as its rivals, if not more. But it makes them simple, pointing out how they can be used to make things easier and quicker, rather than showing off about specifications or having the latest widget or gizmo.
But one of Apple's tricks is that once you buy one of those products, you're going to buy more.
Everything that Apple makes works together so seamlessly (or is supposed to) that having a phone and laptop isn't just a matter of everything looking nice together, they also work nicely together too.
Messages sync across the company's apps, for instance, and devices can be used to control one another. Apple has been increasingly encouraging that approach, building new ways of letting different Apple devices talk to each other under the banner of its Continuity and Handoff services.
It’s what occasionally leads some of Apple’s doubters to call it cult-like - once you go Apple, you rarely go back. But that and other qualities also mean that more people are going Apple than ever before.Reuse content