Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a letter today, revising guidance for the company’s Q1 fiscal results. The note highlights a number of reasons for dropping the number, including, perhaps most notably, lower than expected results in emerging markets.
“While we anticipated some challenges in key emerging markets, we did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China,” Cook says in the letter. “In fact, most of our revenue shortfall to our guidance, and over 100 percent of our year-over-year worldwide revenue decline, occurred in Greater China across iPhone, Mac and iPad.”
Apple has invested a lot of future growth in markets like China, and a series of factors have made for disappointing results. Among them a slowed economy and tensions with the U.S. spurred on by tariffs that many believe will spur on a full-fledged trade war. India has also been a tough nut for the company to crack.
But that’s only one piece of the puzzle here. As Cook notes in the letter, there have been fewer iPhone upgrades than expected. The executive notes, however, that non-phone categories (including the Mac, Apple Watch and iPad) did manage to grow 19 percent, but the smartphone has long been a driving force in the company’s economic fortunes, so a blow to those sales can have a substantial impact on the company’s bottom line.
2018 marked the first down year for smartphone numbers since analyst began tracking them, and not even the might iPhone is immune from the larger trends. The industry at large is going through a reckoning as it grapples to determine the next major consumer electronics trend. Apple has continued to be a rare bright spot in a stagnant world of wearables, but the Watch alone isn’t enough to right that ship.
The letter features an unusually dour tone from the chief executive, but Cook rightly notes that Apple has been through plenty of tough times before. “As we exit a challenging quarter, we are as confident as ever in the fundamental strength of our business. We manage Apple for the long term, and Apple has always used periods of adversity to re-examine our approach, to take advantage of our culture of flexibility, adaptability and creativity, and to emerge better as a result.”