Apple CEO Cook says 5G is a patchwork quilt, strong in China, U.S., weaker in Europe

Apple’s blow-out sales in China were helped by pent-up demand for the first 5G version of the phone, said Cook.

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Apple's sales of iPhone last quarter were helped by the inclusion for the first time of 5G networking, which benefitted sales in China, said CEO Tim Cook during a conference call with analysts on Wednesday evening following a report of much stronger-than-expected fiscal Q1 revenue and profit

Sales in China of iPhone had been delayed preceding the October unveiling of the iPhone 12, said Cook, because many Chinese consumers were waiting for the 5G model.

"Keep in mind that 5G in China is — the network is well established," said Cook. 

Also: Apple CEO Cook says iPhone installed base now over one billion

"And the overwhelming majority of phones being sold are 5G phones. And so I think there was some level of anticipation for us delivering an iPhone with 5G. And so iPhone did extremely well."

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Apple's iPhone 12 went on sale in early November and is the first version of the company's device that features 5G wireless networking connections.

Cook said that China and the U.S. both have more developed 5G networks, and that the global 5G market is something of a patchwork quilt: 

If you look at the 5G rollout in Europe, it's true that Europe is not in the place of — certainly nowhere close to where China is and nowhere close to the U.S. either. But there are other regions that 5G is — that has very good coverage, like Korea is an example. And so the the world, I would describe it right now, is more of a patchwork quilt. There are places that there's really excellent coverage. There are places where -- within a country that is very good but not from a nationwide point of view. And then there are places that really hasn't gotten started yet. Latin America is more closer to the last one. There's lots of opportunity ahead of us there. And I think Europe is where there are 5G implementations there. I think most of that growth is probably in front of us there as well.

Apple's total iPhone sales came in at $65.6 billion for the quarter, up 17%, year over year, and well above Wall Street's expectation for sales of roughly $60 billion. 

Apple stopped reporting its iPhone unit sales last year, but Wall Street sill compiles its estimates every quarter. Analysts have been writing about record quarterly sales, with the average estimate at 76 million iPhones sold.  

Cook told analysts on the call that Apple's total installed base of iPhones crossed the one-billion mark last quarter. Total Apple devices, including Macs and iPads, total 1.65 billion, he said.