As iPhone sales slump, Apple bets on services from apps to music

Wed Apr 27, 2016 12:39am EDT
 
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By Julia Love

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc's first-ever drop in quarterly iPhone sales has spurred Chief Executive Tim Cook to turn the spotlight on prospects for its services business, but the field is rife with competition and may prove challenging for a brand based on gadgets.

Second-quarter earnings saw services emerge as Apple's second-largest business after the iPhone for the first time, topping iPad and Mac sales, which both fell.

The App Store, Apple Music, storage center iCloud and mobile wallet Apple Pay and other services generated nearly $6 billion in revenue, up 20 percent from the previous year. And executives have cheered the progress they are making in subscriptions, touting Apple Music's 13 million paying subscribers.

The size of Apple's installed base with 1 billion devices in consumer hands suggests it has plenty of room to grow in services. Services also promise a recurring revenue stream, unlike hardware sales.

But analysts say Apple faces an uphill battle in carving out the same sort of position in services that it has achieved with its hardware. The $6 billion in services revenue also pales in comparison to iPhone sales which accounted for about two-thirds of the company's $50.6 billion quarterly sales.

Firms such as music service Spotify, cloud storage rivals Google and Microsoft Corp and map makers have claimed major audiences among iPhone users, even when Apple has offered its own products as a default.

Also raising the stakes for its services business has been Apple's decision to release in March the smaller, much cheaper iPhone SE - a move that is seen as trading revenue per device for broader adoption of its phones.

"For the strategy to really make a lot of sense, you want to be more aggressive in building that services revenue," said Colin Gillis, an analyst with BGC Partners.   Continued...

 
An Apple iphone 6 with Apple Pay is shown in this photo illustration in Encinitas , California June 3, 2015.      REUTERS/Mike Blake