During the fourth quarter, Apple produced a record profit of $18.4 billion on $75.9 billion in revenue.
For many analysts, however, the strong performance was overshadowed by Apple’s first negative sales forecast since 2003.
The tech giant said it expects first-quarter revenue to reach between $50 billion and $53 billion, while analysts were expecting a figure closer to $55 billion.
Along with a shaky world economy, the obvious culprit is a maturing market for smartphones.
Speaking in general terms, Luca Maestri, Apple’s CFO, referred to a “very difficult macroeconomic environment” on Tuesday. The poor outlook follows reports that Apple cut its order forecasts to iPhone suppliers in the past several months.
The decline in smartphone orders is understandable, considering that Apple is coming off a sales surge driven by the launch of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. Even if Apple had some fancy new iPhones to sell -- which it doesn’t -- most consumers wouldn’t be ready for such a speedy upgrade.
Also of note, some six years after breaking into mobile advertising, Apple recently threw in the towel.
Having failed to turn its iAd platform into a moneymaker, the tech giant is reportedly sending home its entire sales team, and letting publishers and customers interact directly.
As such, publishers should now get to keep 100% of their iAd ad revenue. That’s a nice bump from Apple’s previous arrangement with developers, which gave them a 70% cut of revenue.
The news shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who has been following iAd’s ups and downs. In late 2014, Apple more or less reintroduced iAd, and then struck multiple ad tech partnerships to resurrect the business as a programmatic platform.
As for why Apple couldn’t capitalize on such a hot mobile market, it apparently just wasn’t cut out for making, managing, and selling mobile ads. “It’s just not something we’re good at,” an unnamed Apple insider recently told BuzzFeed.
Apple’s iAd business accounted for 2.6% of the total domestic mobile ad market in 2015, according to eMarketer.
Total domestic mobile ad spending increased by 59% in 2015 to reach $30.45 billion -- up from growth of 79.5% in 2014 -- by eMarketer’s reckoning.
The research firm expects growth to slow further to 38% -- which would bring total mobile ad spending to $42.01 billion -- this year. Among other growth areas, analysts expressed particular excitement about Apple’s fledgling mobile payment business.
"Apple continues to create opportunities for its customers to use mobile payments by bringing a growing number of banks, retailers and apps on board with Apple Pay in the U.S. and around the world,” according to eMarketer analyst Bryan Yeager.