Apple is expected to unveil record revenues this evening, but all eyes will be on its profit margins, which are expected to fall significantly in the face of increased competition.
Analyst predictions say Apple's fourth quarter revenues will have risen by two percent to $36.8bn following fourth quarter profits of $7.2bn, which is 12 percent lower than the same quarter last year and the third quarter in a row that profit has been down.
Apple's overall share price has had a fairly up-and-down year, currently sitting at 1.2 percent up on the beginning of the year.
In releasing its annual financial results to investors, Apple will reveal exactly how the smartphone market has changed in the last year and how well it has responded with its latest devices, the iPhone 5S and 5C. The 5C will be of particular interest to analysts as it represented a departure from the Apple norm over the last six years: the strategy of having of a single current generation iPhone device ended in September with the launch of the colourful handset with last-generation specifications.
It is the iPhone 5S which is expected to provide most of the positive reading for Apple, as production of the 5C has reportedly been scaled back due to a lack of demand. Nine million new iPhones were sold in the opening weekend after the devices went on sale, most of which were attributed to the 5S. Total iPhone sales are expected to exceed 30 million in the fourth quarter.
Apple's iPad line, meanwhile, is set for a revamp but the effect of this will not be felt until the next quarter, as its new Air devices will go on sale on 1 November. Consumers holding off buying a new tablet are likely to have affected sales of its current line.
In the last quarter, Apple sold 14.6m tablets: this includes the standard iPad, the iPad Mini, which is set for a Retina Display revamp, and the iPad 2, which Apple will continue to sell as a lower spec version of the full-size devices.
User backlash brought about by the launch of Apple's latest mobile operating system iOS 7 may have dented customer loyalty, as wholesale changes swept through the OS, causing reactions as extreme as motion sickness, and vociferous complaints from users all over the world who did not appreciate such a major overhaul.
Increased competition from rivals including Samsung and Google has given consumers more choice, with a range of cheaper, high specification devices eating into Apple's market share. Digital content platforms such as Google's Play Store and Amazon's own digital offerings coupled to branded devices have also given consumers an iTunes alternative in recent years.
Apple's MacBook lineup also saw slight falls in the last quarter, although analysts forgave this easily as the devices were not as badly affected by the slump currently affecting Windows PC manufacturers. Its much-anticipated MacPro desktop machine is also set for launch in the coming quarter.
As yet, there has been no word from Apple regarding its much-rumoured iWatch smartwatch offering, so analysts and Apple fans alike will be listening carefully to Tim Cook as he outlines Apple's 2014 to investors.
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