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Apple reported a record quarter on Wednesday, boosted by strong iPhone and iPad sales, but the popularity of cheaper versions of its mobile devices pinched the company's profits.
The company sold 47.8 million iPhones during the past quarter, shattering the record of 37 million that it set a year ago when the iPhone 4S debuted. It's a stunning number, considering that supply chain woes limited iPhone 5 availability throughout much of the quarter.
That helped Apple record a quarterly profit of $13.1 billion, the second highest profit ever earned by a U.S. corporation
-- bested only by Exxon Mobil's (XOM, Fortune 500) record-setting $14.8 billion quarter from the fall of 2008, when oil prices were at an all-time high.
Still, many analysts and Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) investors are concerned that buyers' interest in the the iPhone might be drying up. Sales estimates for the current quarter and beyond are a pittance compared to the number of iPhones Apple was able to sell over the past three months, and Apple's stock has lost more than a quarter of its value over the past four months.
Customers also appear eager to pay $100 less to get a year-old iPhone 4S or $200 less to get the two-year-old iPhone 4 instead of the iPhone 5, whose features are only slightly more impressive than the older versions'. Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500) reported on Tuesday that it sold a record number of iPhones during the quarter, but the iPhone 5 made up only half of its Apple smartphone sales.
As a result, Apple's profit just barely beat its total from the same quarter a year ago. By the slimmest of margins -- $14 million -- Apple avoided recording its first year-over-year drop in profit in nine years, as analysts had feared it might.
The older iPhones reduced the average selling price of the iPhone and contributed to Apple's pinched profit margin. The company's gross margin fell to 38.6% -- down a whopping six percentage points from the same period a year ago.
Investors didn't like the news. Shares of Apple fell by more than 11% in after-hours trading.
Apple's sales rose 17.7% to $54.5 billion, just missing analysts' forecasts of $54.7 billion.
Still, Apple fattened its cash hoard nicely: It's currently sitting on $137.1 billion.
Apple sells 48 million iPhones, but profit squeezed - Jan. 23, 2013