UPDATED: Apple sells record 51M iPhones, slightly below expectations

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) said it sold a record 51 million iPhones during its most recent quarter, which covered the critical holiday shopping season. Apple's iPhone sales figure was slightly lower than what an average of analysts expected. Apple also reported quarterly revenue of $57.6 billion and quarterly net profit of $13.1 billion.

Click here for quarterly iPhone and iPad sales figures since 2007.

During the company's quarterly conference call, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer pointed specifically to solid iPhone sales in the United States, Japan and China. In North America, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company's iPhone sales were slightly lessened by wireless carriers' stricter 24-month upgrade policies, though he didn't name any carriers or provide much details. He also said Apple couldn't meet demand for the iPhone 5s in North America until the end of its most recent quarter. In Japan, DoCoMo late last year began selling Apple's iPhone; Apple said the iPhone now commands 69 percent of the smartphone market in that country. In China, China Mobile earlier this month began selling Apple's iPhones; China Mobile is the world's largest wireless carrier with around 760 million subscribers. "China is an incredibly important market for iPhone," Oppenheimer said.

"Last week was the best week we've ever had for activations in China," Cook said, noting that Apple is currently selling iPhones in 16 cities with China Mobile, a number that will grow to 300 by the end of the year.

Apple executives also noted that demand for the iPhone 5s--instead of the iPhone 5c--outstripped the company's expectations during the most recent quarter. Cook attributed the demand for the iPhone 5s to interest in the gadget's fingerprint scanner.

According to the Wall Street Journal, analysts on average predicted Apple would sell around 55 million iPhones during its fiscal 2014 first quarter, which ended Dec. 28, 2013.

In its previous quarter, Apple sold 33.8 million iPhones and reported quarterly revenue of $37.5 billion on a quarterly net profit of $7.5 billion. A year ago, Apple sold 47.8 million iPhones, with quarterly revenue of $54.5 billion and a quarterly net profit of $13.1 billion.

In the coming quarter, Apple said it expects a notable decline in revenue, to between $42 billion and $44 billion.

As for its iPad business, Apple reported selling 26 million units in its most recent quarter, which the company said was also an all-time quarterly record.

Interestingly, Apple said it now counts a total of 1 million iOS apps, which the company said generated $2 billion in sales during the company's most recent quarter. Apple also said it now counts 130,000 apps made specifically for the Chinese market. Apple executives pointed out that the company's refreshed iOS 7 is now running on 80 percent of the company's mobile devices--the company specifically pointed out that the newest version of Android is only running on a single-digit percentage of Android phones.

Apple is widely expected to release new products sometime in the future, including a possible "iWatch" smart watch and iPhones with bigger screens. Those gadgets could also help propel Apple's earnings in the coming quarters, if they are indeed released. During the company's conference call, Cook was questioned whether Apple has new products up its sleeve. Though he didn't answer directly, he said: "I think our customers are going to love what we're going to do." Cook also confirmed that Apple will release new products in new categories sometime in 2014.

Moreover, Apple has been rumored to be preparing some type of mobile payments solution, which could leverage the new fingerprint scanner that Apple released with the iPhone 5s. Apple's Cook was questioned about the company's thinking on mobile payments, though he declined to discuss possible forthcoming products. "The mobile payments industry in general is one that we've been intrigued with," Cook said. "But we're not limiting ourselves to that." He also said that "it's a big opportunity on the (iOS) platform."

For more:
- see this release
- see this Wall Street Journal article (sub. req.)
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article

Special Report: Wireless in the fourth quarter of 2013

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Article updated Jan. 28 to correct analyst predictions.