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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Fun with Charts: Apple’s fiscal year in review

Last week Apple announced the results for its fiscal fourth quarter, which was the latest in a series of records set by the company. As always, I generated a bunch of colorful charts based on the numbers.1

With the closing of the fourth quarter comes the closing of a fiscal year. And while none of us gathered around a HomePod and shouted “Happy New Year!” on midnight of Sept. 262 (the first day of the new fiscal year), as far as Apple is concerned it’s now fiscally 2022.

That means it’s time for the final totals, and an entirely new set of charts based entirely on Apple’s annual performance. This provides a fun opportunity to revisit some charts from about two years ago and look back at where the company has been, while considering where it might go next.

Let’s start with the big one. Here’s the overall Apple revenue for the last 23 years:

Apple has been on a rocket-ship ride since the debut of the iPhone. But Fiscal 2021 was like no other. Revenue was up 33% from 2020.3 After three years where revenue held steady, it’s a huge jump, the biggest in total dollars ever. Percentage-wise, though, Apple’s seen numerous years with more than 33% growth—but there hasn’t been one since 2012.

Speaking of that rocket-ship ride, here’s the instigator:

iPhone chart

Looking at any annual chart strips the seasonality out of things. (Apple is, generally, much better during the fiscal first quarter—the holiday quarter—than any other three-month span. It can make quarterly charts a little harder to read for larger trends.) However, I think this iPhone chart exposes another sort of seasonality—the iPhone upgrade cycle.

In the fall of 2014, Apple introduced the iPhone 6, with larger screens—and sales shot up. You can see it in the huge leap that iPhone sales took in 2015. Then iPhone sales tailed off for a couple of years—until fiscal 2018, which coincided with the introduction of an entirely new iPhone design in the iPhone X.

Fiscal 2021 shows another one of those spikes, and would you look at that—the iPhone 12 was a physical redesign, too. These things really do go in cycles.

Also, don’t believe any narrative that explains that Apple is doing something because iPhone sales are bad or down or stagnant. True, iPhone sales growth isn’t what it used to be in the years between 2009 and 2014, but the trend is ever upward, and 2021’s iPhone revenue numbers were the best ever.

Back in January 2020, I wrote that the 2010s “was clearly a success for the Mac, but it was an incremental success.” And if you look at the 2010s, you can see Mac revenues slowly creeping up, but largely plateauing:

But in the 2020s, at least thus far, the Mac has reached new heights. How much of this is due to a super buying cycle forced by COVID remains to be seen, but after nine straight years between 22 and 26 billion dollars in sales, the last two years have seen the Mac leap up to $29 billion and then $35 billion. The four best sales quarters in Mac history are the four quarters that comprised fiscal 2021. The Mac has never been more successful.

The shape of the iPad’s revenue trajectory isn’t like that of the iPhone or the Mac:

The iPad came on strong, with three spectacularly good sales years from 2012 to 2014. At the time, there was an expectation that the iPad was on its way to iPhone-like success. We all know what happened next—people had bought their iPads, and then they went on with their lives. iPad revenue declined for five consecutive years.

But things have changed. After a couple of years of $3 billion in revenue growth, in 2021 iPad revenues increased $8 billion to $32 billion, surpassing the all-time annual high water mark from 2013.

I don’t know where the iPad goes from here—and as with the Mac, it’s worth asking if iPad sales were goosed by COVID and will now slide backward—but after seven years of wondering if the iPad peaked in 2013, we got our answer.

And then there are the newcomers: Services and Wearables, Home & Accessories (formerly known as Other).

These are Apple’s categories that are on the way up. And while it’s hard to match the trajectory of Services, which can just keep growing as more people add Apple services to their credit cards and watch as they’re charged on a monthly or annual basis, it’s impressive how rapidly the Wearables category—powered primarily by AirPods and Apple Watch—has made itself a bigger category than either Mac or iPad.

Which brings us to the final chart, one that seeks to put all of Apple’s product lines in context. Make no mistake—the iPhone is the bulk of the business, and its growth seems even more impressive when you see it in the context of Apple’s other product lines.

Still, Services is coming on strong. I’m not sure if any of Apple’s existing product lines will ever be able to come close to iPhone revenue, but if there’s one of them that could, it’s Services.

It was quite a year for Apple. Who knows what the next one will bring? Happy fiscal 2022 to you and yours, I suppose.

  1. My charts come in many colors—it’s on brand for this site—but the numbers are monochromatic. They’re the color of money. 
  2. I sure hope someone at Apple popped a cork as the books closed on Fiscal 2021. Luca Maestri, did you have some Prosecco on ice? 
  3. I really wanted to write “from the year-ago year.” 

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