Apple’s Jaw-Dropping Q2 2021 by the Numbers

Originally published at: Apple’s Jaw-Dropping Q2 2021 by the Numbers - TidBITS

The world may be a year into a pandemic, but Apple is healthier than ever, with its quarterly profits more than doubling year-over-year, and its revenues in all sales categories, led by chart-busting Mac and iPad sales, smashing records…or, as CEO Tim Cook put it, “Another strong quarter.”

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Even more remarkable than it seemed. Apple’s holiday quarter usually far out paces every other quarter. This one, a non-holiday quarter, came close to matching the largest holiday quarter Apple’s ever had. That’s…impressive.

Facebook also posted record earnings for Q2 yesterday, but they did acknowledge that Apple’s new tracking/privacy features will have a significant negative impact going forward. However, they did try to put an optimistic spin on it:

Maybe its US-only terminology but I’m confused by the heading “Q2 2021”. What exactly does this cover? I would normally say its “the second quarter of 2021”, which specifically covers April to June, inclusive. But it can’t be as we’re not past June yet… So I’m guessing its the financial year, starting in 2020, ending in 2021, that the numbers refer to. Which confusingly is talking about the last 3 months of 2020.

Is it just me or does this confuse others (not from the US)? In Australia we specifically call the FY: “2020-2021” to avoid such ambiguity.

Yes, that’s a fiscal quarter. Apple’s fiscal year is October - September (well, technically I think it starts the last Sunday in September). So Q1 2021 was approximately October 1 2020 - December 31 2020. Q2 2021 was January 1 2021 - March 31 (technically 27) 2021. Some articles do better jobs than others calling out specifically “fiscal year”, although for financial matters, like quarterly results, fiscal year is pretty much always assumed (at least in the US, and I’m not sure how it could be otherwise being that’s how it’s reported by the company.)

And yes, it can be confusing. I worked for quite a while for a company that had a non-aligned fiscal year and everybody had to stop and translate in their head what a fiscal quarter really meant (the biggest being to respect quiet and lockup periods.)

All our business people always use FY21 vs. CY21 to be clear. Problem is, depending on company the FY starts with a different quarter. So Apple’s matches the US Federal Government’s (starting 10/1), but my wife’s company also here in the US starts their FY one quarter ahead (7/1). Go figure. So Q2 remains ambiguous unless you know what and who. Sometimes articles point out exactly what period they are referring to.

Fiscal quarters don’t necessarily align with calendar quarters either. For example, my employer’s fiscal year begins September 1st.

One quick way to check is to pull up the company’s financial numbers on Yahoo Finance. For example, Apple (AAPL). You can see that each year’s annual income data (always as of the end of the fiscal year) is dated September 30, meaning that their fiscal year starts on October 1st.

Sorry! Everyone else has explained it well. We’ve been writing these articles covering Apple’s financial reports for so many years that we assumed everyone was familiar with the terminology by now.

The publishing and advertising companies I worked with typically had fiscal years starting in November or December. It was because the fall back to school, and then the holiday, seasons were typically their strongest revenue producers. They also had to spend big bucks in the summer in advance for paper and production of larger issues, and more expensive media time. The holiday and back to school seasons are also big revenue generators for Apple.

This is the same in the UK. Even when it’s clearly the fiscal year being talked about, both years are always referenced, usually in the form FY20/21 or FY20/21 Q1.

As seems to also be the case in the US, you need to know what organisation you’re talking about to understand what period this relates to. The government’s fiscal year runs 6 Apr–5 Apr, an organisation I worked for ran 1 Mar–28/29 Feb, and another used the calendar year (in which case they’d obviously refer to FY21).

Thanks for this - a nuance I completely missed until now.