For Apple's earnings, it's all eyes on the iPhone

The company will report its fiscal third-quarter results Tuesday, and Wall Street will be looking at the iPhone for a bright spot.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
2 min read
Apple iPhone 5

Apple announces its fiscal third-quarter earnings on Tuesday, and -- as usual -- all eyes are on how well the iPhone is selling.

The hit product has become a key part of Apple's business and the fuel to dramatic growth over the past several years, though that growth has slowed.

Reports from some phone carriers have provided a peek at Tuesday's results, specifically Verizon, which reported iPhone sales last week that were higher than the carrier originally expected.

Wall Street is expecting Apple to post earnings of $7.31 per share on sales of $35 billion for its quarter, which ended in late June. Those estimates are on the higher end of how much Apple said it expected to bring in when it reported on its previous quarter back in April -- a range of $33.5 to $35.5 billion in sales.

In either case, that's down from earnings of $9.32 per share and flat with the $35 billion in sales Apple reported the same quarter a year ago.

One of the key reasons for a dip in the amount of profit Apple's making are gross margins, or how much Apple's making on the products it sells. By Apple's forecast, those are expected to be between 36 and 37 percent, down from the nearly 43 percent from the same quarter a year ago.

During an earnings call earlier this year, Apple noted that some of the change in its margins was due to the company making less on the iPad Mini than some of its other popular products. It also attributed some to a weaker U.S. dollar, adding that things could improve as the company brings down costs.

Wall Street is expecting Apple's sales to work out to around 26.5 million iPhones, which would be half a million more than the company sold during the same time last year. Similarly, Apple is expected to sell 18 million iPads, around 1 million more than last year, though down from the 19.5 million it sold the previous quarter. Other estimates include sales of 3.9 million Macs (versus a year ago's 4 million), and 4.8 million iPods (down from a year ago's 6.8 million).

For the current quarter, Wall Street analysts polled by Thomson First Call are expecting Apple to report earnings of $8.16 per share on $37.8 billion in sales, with a margin of 36.8 percent. That would be down from $8.67 profit per share on $36 billion in sales and 40 percent gross margin the company made during the same quarter last year.

Apple will report just after the market closes on Tuesday, followed by a conference call with executives at 2 p.m. PT. CNET will have all the relevant news from both, so stay tuned.