Apple on Thursday dropped a bombshell in announcing a major change in the way it reports quarterly earnings, saying it will no longer release iPhone, Mac and iPad sales numbers starting with the December period.
The surprise shift in policy was announced during a quarterly conference call for the fourth quarter of 2018 as part of opening remarks delivered by CFO Luca Maestri.
Going forward, Apple will no longer break out unit sales for three of its most important products. The company will continue to report revenue and sales growth, but the change means analysts and market watchers will be unable to derive device ASPs and other calculations.
“A unit of sale is less relevant today than it was in our past,” Maestri said, adding that the number of units sold does not necessarily represent the relative health of a product’s underlying business. Product ranges have become “much wider” sales price dispersion.
The change arrives as sales of iPhone, Apple’s most important revenue driver, stagnate. During the most recent quarter, for example, iPhone sales growth was flat year-over-year. Last quarter, sales were up by a single percent from the same time last year.
While iPhone unit sales are no longer trending toward growth, average sales price is booming. For the fourth quarter of 2018, iPhone ASP hit an all-time high of $793, up from $617.99 in 2017. Similar positive changes were seen in trailing quarters with a marked increase appearing with the launch of Apple’s premium-priced iPhone X last year.
Maestri during today’s call noted segment competitors do not provide unit sales.
“Our intention is to continue to give revenue guidance at the company level and gross margin in the other categories,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said. “Our guidance isn’t changing, it’s the actual report that is changing.”