Apple sold nearly 50 million iPhones in the fiscal 4th quarter, reports Jefferson Graham on #TalkingTech.
By Jefferson Graham

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple isn’t just selling more iPhones, it’s selling more higher-priced iPhones than ever before.

The company said late Tuesday that iPhone unit shipments for the fiscal fourth quarter ended in September rose 22% from a year ago, while revenue from the product surged an even-better 36%.

That market power helped drive up the average selling price for its smartphone to about $670, up from $603 in the same period a year earlier and $660 for the quarter ended in June.

Apple’s ability to charge higher average sale prices for its products has survived its expansion into China, a market that traditionally has favored low-priced phones.

The company’s sales in the world’s most-populous country essentially doubled from a year ago, rising 99% to $12.5 billion.

That means China now contributes 24% of the company’s sales.

A year ago, China sales rose a measly 1% year-over-year and contributed just 13.7% of total revenue.

China has been the graveyard for the growth hopes of a long list of U.S. tech companies dating back more than a decade, from Cisco Systems to Google/Alphabet to Qualcomm.

So it’s been no surprise that many Apple skeptics have raised concerns about the company’s ability to boost profits in China along with revenue.

Apple’s fiscal fourth-quarter report should put those concerns to rest, at least for another quarter or two, when the company will continue to benefit from the rollout of new, higher-priced models like the iPhone 6 Plus.

The upshot?

Investors concerned with capital gains have found investing in Apple to be a matter of timing.

For example, while the stock surged 43% in 2014, thumping the broader market for tech stocks, it has climbed just 4% so far this year.

With the holiday shopping season ahead and Apple’s marketing machine ready to move those premium phones to consumers around the globe, market bulls could once again be ready to send the company’s shares higher.

Follow USA TODAY technology columnist John Shinal on Twitter: @johnshinal.

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