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Discussion Question Set #1 – iPhone at Apple (25 points)

Lenny Allegretti

1. Which accounting method best reflects the economic reality? Put another way, which accounting numbers – the GAAP or non-GAAP numbers best reflects economic reality? [10 points] Economic reality can be defined as the overall outlook of the economy at a certain point in time. This outlook includes factors such as interest rates, politics, and speculation. In its Q4 financial results Apple reported both GAAP and non-GAAP revenue and net profit for the iPhone. Their GAAP results showed 7.9 billion in revenue and 1.1 billion in net profit. The non-GAAP showed revenue of 11.7 billion and net profit of 2.4 billion.

The GAAP results reflect the usage of subscription accounting for the iPhone. Subscription accounting recognizes product cost and revenue on a straight line basis over 24 months (the average user time period of a single mobile device). This causes the sale of an iPhone to be placed in deferred revenue to be evenly distributed for the next two years. It also accounts for the costs of goods sold.

The non-GAAP results followed the time of sale method. This accounts for the product revenue and cost in the period that revenue or product cost is incurred.

Considering the facts I believe that the non-GAAP numbers best reflect economic reality. These are the true numbers of how the iPhone truly performed in that quarter. Apple is a company that spends a tremendous amount of money on R & D each year and they will continue to do that until they cease to exist. Therefore, purchasing an iPhone should not be recorded as a subscription, but it should be recorded time of sale. The fact is that Apple will continue to upgrade its platforms and its devices. The idea of straight line basis accounting for the iPhone does not follow an economic reality. The reality is people want to know how sales and revenue for the iPhone faired in that quarter. The fact that past quarters...
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