Three months ago, when CEO Tim Cook was asked why Apple's revenue from greater China sunk 14 percent year over year, he didn't have a great answer. Apparently, there wasn't a “totally clear” answer for the shift.
Now, poring over Apple's Q4 earnings, the story is very different. That same region accounted for $5.7 billion of Apple's total revenue pie (or, if you prefer, 15.3 percent). What's more, it's up 24 percent from last quarter, and up 6 percent from last year. And CFO Peter Oppenheimer even noted during his quarterly breakdown that 27K employees of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China were outfitted with iPhones.
So what happened? Why the turnaround? Cook was asked that very question during this afternoon's earnings call, and he was about as understated as always. “We had a pretty good quarter in China,” he noted. “Obviously we want to do better.”
It soon became clear that there was no one reason for Apple's bounce back in the region this quarter. Cook pointed to a closer working relationship with Chinese carriers, and the government as a whole for one, a shift that allowed Apple to China in its first wave of iPhone 5s and 5c rollouts. In case you haven't been keeping track, that's a first for the company and the country, and Cook hopes to keep things running smoothly on the mobile end of things.
Part of Cook's plan to boost Apple's performance in China comes down to good ol' fashioned selling. He said that the company is “continuing to invest in stores” in that market (and noted that Apple recently opened a new store in Chongqing). Apple was initially very focused on rolling out in large cities, but the key to maintaining and expanding its foothold in China is apparently going to be centered around earlier launches, investing in indirect distribution and a honing of retail prowess.
We'll see how that goes, but for now there's little question that Apple is the underdog of the region - Android (and its various forks) reign supreme for a handful of reasons and it seems unlikely for that needle to move drastically any time soon. That said, IDC reported earlier in September that it expected Android market share in China to plateau going into 2014 and eventually give way for platforms like iOS and Windows Phone to pick up some steam, so Apple's refined approach may put into place at just the right time.
[Photo via Flickr/kwramm]