From a garage in 1976 (even if that’s partly a myth) to the ritzy California campus of today, Apple is now worth more than $1 trillion. The Cupertino tech giant’s shares briefly rose to $207.05 Thursday, making it the first U.S. company with a market value measured in 13 digits.
For perspective, the gross domestic product of the entire U.S. is just over $18.5 trillion.
Though its origins are in desktop computers, Apple owes most of its success to a device in another category entirely: the iPhone. Sales of the iPhone, which launched in 2007, now account for more than 60 percent of Apple’s total revenue.
iPhone sales dwarf competitors. In 2017, Apple sold 223 million of the devices, earning the slot as the top-selling tech product of the year. Samsung came in second, with combined sales of the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 hitting 33 million.
In addition to profiting handsomely from iPhone sales, the device made possible other Apple revenue streams, including the App Store, Apple Music, iCloud and Apple Pay. Those services generated $8.5 billion in revenue for Apple in the last quarter of 2018 alone ― more than it made on AirPod, Apple TV, Apple Watch, iPad and Beats headphone lines combined.
Innovative design and pioneering technology only get you so far, however. Apple’s rise has relied heavily on foreign workers, and some have toiled under abysmal working conditions. Apple manufacturer Foxconn famously had to install nets around its buildings to stymie the suicide attempts of workers hurling themselves from the upper floors.
Apple’s success has had an environmental cost as well. The company’s own audits show it has struggled to find ethically sourced raw materials like tin and gold.
Apple is not the world’s first company to crack $1 trillion, nor is it the most valuable company. It is, however, the first company to do so in an industry that doesn’t involve extracting, refining and selling oil products.
The title of “first to a trillion” actually goes to PetroChina, the publicly traded arm of the state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. PetroChina briefly surpassed the trillion-dollar mark back in 2007. Then the price of oil cratered, and PetroChina earned a less-fun accolade: biggest stock collapse in world history.
And the claim to “most valuable company” likely belongs to Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company, Aramco, which is seeking a $2 trillion valuation at its initial public offering later this year or in 2019.
But, back in the U.S., Apple has trounced oil companies in terms of market value. It first surpassed ExxonMobil in 2011, then, after ceding and reclaiming the title a couple times, finally left the largest U.S.-based oil company in the rearview mirror in 2013. Exxon’s market cap currently hovers around $330 billion ― about one-third the size of Apple’s.
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