Apple’s upcoming change in sales reporting is a bad idea

Starting with its next fiscal quarter, Apple will stop listing how many Macs, iPhones, and iPads shipped each quarter, but will only report only the revenues each part of the company recorded.

Apple claims that the move was only done to simplify the process of reporting, and has nothing to do with the unit numbers being down in recent months while higher prices kept revenues up. However, I find that hard to believe; rather, it seems to me that it’s simply designed to mask the trend that sales of Apple’s cash cow, the iPhone, is starting to slow.

Image courtesy “Cult of Mac”

Image courtesy “Cult of Mac”

"The number of units sold in every quarter has not been representative of the underlying strength of our business," Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri told analysts on an earnings call. "Our product range for all of the product categories have become wider over time, a unit of sale is less relevant for us at this point compared to the past.”

Near the end of the call, Jim Suva, an analyst from Citigroup asked again about this change. Maestri said revenue and cost of sales will be reported, adding that there’s an effect regarding the unit sales growth at the top end of the iPhone line that’s not reflected in the total unit sales.

Apple CEO Tim Cook used an analogy that, to me, doesn’t add up (pun intended). He said that, when a grocery customer arrives with a grocery cart at checkout, the cashier doesn’t ask how many items are in the cart. Instead, it’s the total amount of the order does matter.

Writing for MarketWatch, Therese Poletti offers a great argument why Apple’s argument is “laughable” and a move to less transparency.

“Talking about sales is no longer easy for Apple, so it will stop,” Polettie says. “What will be too tough for the company to disclose to its investors next? We will find out when Apple decides to stop.”

The article also notes that Citigroup analyst Jim Suva gave the best summation of the most important actual reason for the change: “Some people may fear that this now means that the iPhone units are going to start going negative year-over-year, because it’s easier to talk about great things and not show the details of things that aren’t so great.”