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Apple will no longer tell you how many iPhones, iPads and Macs it sells

The change comes after a quarter when iPhone unit sales fell below Wall Street expectations.

Apple says instead it'll focus on the revenue generated. 
Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple just made it a little trickier to figure out how well its iPhones are selling. 

Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri said Thursday on a conference call with financial analysts that the company will no longer offer unit sales data for iPhones, iPads and Macs starting in the next quarter. The company will instead focus on the revenue generated. 

The change comes after Apple posted fiscal fourth-quarter results in which iPhone revenue soared despite unit sales that missed Wall Street's expectations. The omission of data will make it harder to get a sense of how well Apple is performing. iPhone unit sales are a critical metric that investors and company observers use to weigh its performance. 

Apple benefits from the shift because it's able to generate more revenue on its products by raising its prices. On Tuesday, it unveiled new iPads and Macs that all saw a bump in their price tag. 

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Apple shares dropped about 4 percent on the results and then declined further -- more than 7 percent -- during the company's earnings call after Apple said it would change its reporting structure. The stock recently tumbled 6.7 percent to $207.30 in after-hours trading. 

Apple iPhone unit sales may not be growing, but its strategy to boost prices is working. The iPhone average selling price has been above $700 since the tech giant launched the iPhone X. The even pricier XS Max, the first iteration of such a device, has proven popular with Apple fans and likely helped boost its average selling price to an all-time high.

"As demonstrated by our financial performance in recent years, the number of units sold in any 90-day period is not necessarily representative of the underlying strength of our business," Maestri said during the call. "Furthermore, our unit of sale is less relevant for us today than it was in the past, given the breadth of our portfolio and the wider sales price dispersion within any given product line."

The last question of Apple's earnings call addressed the company's plans to no longer detail unit sales. Citigroup analyst Jim Suva noted that "some people may fear that this now means that the iPhone units are going to start going negative year-over-year because it's easy to talk about great things and not show the details of things that aren't so great."

Maestri reiterated his earlier reasoning for no longer breaking out unit sales, while Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple's installed base is growing by the double digits on a percentage basis. 

"This is a little bit like if you go to the market and you push your cart up to the cashier and she says, or he says, 'How many units do you have in there?'" Cook said. "It doesn't matter a lot how many units there are in there in terms of the overall value of what's in the cart."

First published Nov. 1, 2:38 p.m. PT
Update at 3:35 p.m. PT with additional comments from conference call. 

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