Apple may have just turned in strong financial numbers for its June financial quarter. But everyone's thoughts — even Tim Cook's — seem to be focused on the fall.
That's when Apple is widely expected to unveil the iPhone 8. And while Apple rarely discusses details about its upcoming products and offered no new iPhone details during a call with Wall Street analysts today (Aug. 1), the company didn't exactly dampen expectations that something big is in the works.
"We can't wait to deliver all these innovations in the months to come," Apple CEO Tim Cook said as he recapped Apple's iOS, macOS, watchOS and HomePod announcements from June's developer conference. "And we might even have more to share with you this fall."
What the Numbers Say
One clue that Apple's expecting big things in the second half of its calendar year comes from the revenue forecast for the upcoming September quarter that it provided Wall Street. Apple expects to record between $49 billion to $52 billion in sales in the September quarter. That would be a 4 to 10 percent gain over sales from the same period in 2016, which would set up Apple nicely for the holiday shopping season.
More importantly, Apple's forecast is larger than the $49 billion Wall Street analysts had been anticipating. And that's from a company that's notoriously conservative about its financial projections.
Apple's revenue forecast for its fiscal fourth quarter isn't necessarily an indicator of strong iPhone 8 sales. The quarter ends in September, after all, and even if a phone were to ship that month, the bigger impact on Apple's bottom line would be felt in the October-to-December quarter. Still, Apple's bullish forecast indicates that the company is optimistic about its product pipeline — and the jump in Apple's stock price in after-hours trading today indicates that investors share that enthusiasm.
The ARKit Effect
One reason for Apple's optimistic outlook for the rest of the year may be its recent augmented reality efforts. Apple released ARKit as part of the iOS 11 beta in June, and Cook indicated that developers are embracing the tools for adding AR features to their apps.
"It's still early in the beta process, but it's clear that ARKit has captured the imagination of the developer community," said Cook, who sees broad appeal for AR in education, entertainment, gaming and business uses.
ARKit-built apps will be able to run on any iOS device powered by an A9 processor or better and running iOS 11. Once the final version of that mobile OS ships, Cook said, iOS 11 will be the world's largest AR platform.
Augmented reality is rumored to be one of the main features in the iPhone 8, as Apple's next phone could include a 3D camera capable of supporting advanced AR features.
A Plus-Sized Appetite
Even with the iPhone 8 looming on the horizon, Apple still heads into the fall with some modest smartphone sales momentum. Apple sold 41 million iPhones during the June quarter, a 2 percent increase from 2016.
While that's relatively flat growth as people hold off on iPhone purchases until the iPhone 8's debut, Apple still found some positives: Cook says the iPhone 7 Plus sold well compared to last year's iPhone 6s Plus sales figures, suggesting people are more enthusiastic about Apple's higher-priced phone. That's potentially good news for Apple, as the iPhone 8 is rumored to cost much more than the company's current iPhone lineup.
The big question about the iPhone 8 is whether it will ship close to the usual September launch window that Apple has stuck to in recent years. Some rumors have the new phone launching much later in the year than normal.
Apple offered no clues in today's call, swatting down various attempts by Wall Street analysts to pry any hints out of Cook and company. But Apple's September quarter forecast and Cook's upbeat comments about Apple's product pipeline suggest that Apple's not exactly sweating the iPhone 8's arrival.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.