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3 Things to Watch When Apple Inc. Reports Earnings

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is expected to report its fiscal third-quarter financial results on August 1, after market close. I don't expect this earnings report to be particularly interesting from the financial side of things. Apple's financial results are largely driven by its iPhone business unit and last quarter, Apple was still selling its old iPhone 7 series smartphones.

Things should get interesting later in the calendar year when Apple begins rolling out its new iPhone models, which many believe will be compelling enough to trigger a so-called "super cycle" that'll lead to a big surge in unit demand.

Image source: Apple.

Nevertheless, while this quarter probably isn't going to be that interesting as far as the company's overall financial results go, there are several things that I'll be keenly watching when the company reports earnings and provides commentary on the accompanying conference call. Here are three of them.

How's the iPad doing?

Apple's iPad business has been in decline for quite some time. iPad unit shipments dropped 17% year over year during the company's fiscal year 2016, and over the first six months of the current fiscal year, unit shipments again were down 17%.

What's interesting, though, is that the year-over-year decline in the company's most recently reported quarter slowed to 13% year over year. The revenue decline was a little bit better than that, down just 12% year over year.

On the last earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the company's iPad results "were ahead of [Apple's] expectations." CFO Luca Maestri provided some additional good news for the iPad business, noting that the company's iPad business grew year over year in the U.S. last quarter, and that the company has enjoyed "revenue growth worldwide for [its] 9.7-inch and larger iPads over the last four quarters."

Given the recent release of Apple's new iPad Pro models -- which include some rather compelling new features such as ProMotion displays and a crazy-fast A10X chip -- it'll be interesting to see if Apple enjoys an uptick in either unit demand, or average selling price performance -- or both!

Checking on the services story

One narrative that seems to have caught on among the tech investment community is that Apple's business will rely more on services going into the future. This isn't by accident -- Apple has been pushing this narrative for a while, likely because software/services companies tend to enjoy higher earnings multiples than pure hardware companies.

Apple even went so far as to state earlier this year that, within four years, it intends to double its services revenue. Considering that Apple's services business raked in $14.2 billion in revenue during the first six months of this year -- making it Apple's second-largest revenue source over that period -- a doubling of this already large (and likely quite profitable) business would be an impressive feat.

It'll take years for Apple to double the business -- it grew 18% during the last six months compared to the same six-month period a year ago -- so my main interest in Apple's services results this quarter is to simply check to see if it's still growing robustly.

How's the Mac doing?

Apple's third-largest revenue source over the last six months has been its Mac business, which raked in just over $13 billion in revenue during that period -- up 10% year over year.

Apple let its Mac business languish for a while until it refreshed its MacBook Pro product lines last fall, which helped this business return to growth. Then, at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple announced another refresh of the product line, and even announced new iMac Pro computers, which should ship by the end of the year.

The Mac seems to be on a good track now. I'm mainly interested in seeing if the rebound in this business, as well as the services business, has staying power.

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Ashraf Eassa has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.