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10 things Tim Cook’s phone call tells us about Apple

From iPhone growth to iPad optimism, Apple’s CEO is bullish about the year ahead

Apple’s Q1 2015 financial results found the company in buoyant mood and rolling in money.

But the phone call between Apple execs and analysts also provided insight into the current state of Apple and what we can expect over coming months.

1. One billion iOS devices have shipped

1. One billion iOS devices have shipped

November 22 was the day Apple shipped its one billionth iOS device, a ‘Space Gray’ 64 GB iPhone 6 Plus, which remains at Apple HQ. Apple might not have Android’s combined numbers, but one billion units is clearly not a niche concern, and App Store revenue was up 41 per cent too.

Given the profitability (or at least the potential for making money) that pervades Apple’s platform, this all suggests most developers will still flock to iOS first and Android second. The likelihood of making it really big remains a lottery, of course, but one you have a better chance of winning on iOS than rival platforms.

2. iPhone will continue to grow

2. iPhone will continue to grow

Every year, people reckon the iPhone will lose its allure — people will ditch it for cheaper Android kit, or the market will somehow evaporate or become saturated. To counter this, alongside revealing that Apple had sold a whopping 74 million iPhones in its Q1, CEO Tim Cook noted his company saw its highest rate of iPhone newcomers and the “highest Android switcher rate” in any of the past three launches. (Apple didn’t check back further.) Upgrades from previous iPhones were “barely in the teens” [per cent], too. That doesn’t sound like a market that’s about to nosedive.

READ MORE: Apple iPhone 6 review

3. The iPad’s not doomed…

3. The iPad’s not doomed…

iPad sales were down again (year-on-year), and Cook didn’t foresee any improvement on the horizon. He reasoned tablets are still fairly new, and their final ‘level’ is unknown, as is the upgrade cycle. He also suggested there was cannibalisation happening, albeit primarily from other Apple products — Mac notebooks and iPhones. So Apple’s scuppering potential iPad sales by selling people something else — not a terrible position to be in.

He nonetheless remained optimistic about Apple’s tablet, saying customer satisfaction for the iPad was “off the charts”, and first-time buyer rates remain very high — even around 50 per cent in developed markets. The iPad massively outperforms rivals in web usage and commerce, and Apple’s partnership with IBM may lead to getting more of its tablets into businesses, to “change how people work” with apps created for specific tasks. In other words, pundits might bang on about ‘peak tablet’, but the iPad isn’t going away any time soon.

4. …But the Apple TV might be

4. …But the Apple TV might be

When asked about the future of the Apple TV, Cook said Apple had enjoyed a “solid quarter” with the product, and over 25 million Apple TVs had now been sold. It was also something the company would continue to look at to “find a way to make an even greater contribution than what we are doing”.

That sounds rather vague and not entirely encouraging, unless Apple’s being cagey about the future of this product line. The Apple TV is long overdue for an upgrade, and we have to wonder whether Apple looks at 25 million Apple TVs sold during the product’s lifetime, and 74 million iPhones in a single quarter, and reckons the former’s just not worth the bother any more.

READ MORE: Apple TV beta gets a shiny new interface

5. The Apple Watch is coming soon

5. The Apple Watch is coming soon

Cook said Apple Watch development was on schedule, with the device expected to ship in April. Devs are apparently working hard on apps, and Cook mentioned incredibly exciting innovation surrounding the device.

Given recent App Store strangeness, though, we worry about the review team rejecting apps for possibly spurious reasons, until Apple nails down precisely what it wants Apple Watch apps to be. Expect an April launch, then, followed by excitement (SQUEE! NEW THING!), disappointment (It’s not a digital unicorn!), realisation that it’s actually useful, and months of Russian roulette regarding app approval.

READ MORE: Apple Watch hands-on preview

6. Apple’s increasingly a worldwide player

The Apple Store in Pudong, Shanghai

Apple often feels like a company with worldwide reach, but that primarily operates in and cares about the USA. Yet the iPhone 6 international rollout was Apple’s fastest to date, and the company’s growing in all regions — especially Brazil and mainland China. Our hope is this pushes Apple to double down on not just rapidly rolling out hardware worldwide, but also software and services.

7. Quality sells

7. Quality sells

Whether you look at Mac sales rising and thereby bucking the PC market trend, or Apple’s success in China, despite its kit being surrounded by a sea of cheap clones, it’s clear quality sells. Analysts keep claiming we’ll one day see a race to the bottom, but most technology sectors have a prestige brand that performs nicely and profitably, even if it doesn’t have an especially huge market-share. Apple’s further cementing itself in that position; expect this to continue.

READ MORE: Hands-on with the 5K Retina display iMac

8. Apple can still think different

8. Apple can still think different

Since Tim Cook took over from Steve Jobs, Apple hasn’t done anything new, apparently. At least, this is what we’re told so often. And yet we heard otherwise from the man himself. To take two examples: Swift and IBM. Apple unleashed new programming language Swift, something Cook said “very few companies can do”, and it’s already having “unprecedented growth”, with developers using it for “significant new projects”. And with IBM, Apple’s making further headway in enterprise — an area in which it’s previously not fared well. Expect more changes ahead as Apple further becomes Cook’s company rather than his predecessor’s.

9. Cook’s Apple has a human touch

9. Cook’s Apple has a human touch

Steve Jobs enjoyed talking about the creative potential afforded by Macs and how Apple was at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts. But it’s clear there’s a more human feel to Apple with Cook. Naturally, he continues to enthuse about enriching lives and creating personal powerful technology that’s fun and simple to use; but Cook also seems far more engaged in the “contributions we make to humanity through our products,” such as ConnectEd education grants and helping Project Red in the fight against AIDS. Beyond that, HealthKit, too, further humanises technology, in personal fitness and hospital medicine. During 2015, then, Apple will continue to integrate into people’s lives, beyond the usual places gadgets lurk.

10. Apple Pay will pay its way

10. Apple Pay will pay its way

In another great example of Apple further integrating itself into people’s lives, payment system Apple Pay has already proven to be a huge success in the USA, with “unprecedented demand” from merchants. Cook suggested Apple was “in the first inning” and hadn’t even completed that yet, and was shocked how retailers clamoured to implement the system during the heart of their holiday season, when they usually “lock down” to concentrate on sales.

On going international, Cook said there’s a lot of heavy lifting ahead, but Apple sees opportunity rather than something to be scared of. His prediction: “With all of this momentum in the early days, we are more convinced than ever that 2015 will be the year of Apple Pay.” Or judging by everything else he said, maybe just ‘the year of Apple’.

READ MORE: Apple Pay to arrive in UK in "first half of 2015"