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Now that's more like it: Apple, Inc. (AAPL - Analyst Report) beat estimates in both earnings and revenues after the bell Tuesday on better-than-expected iPhone sales in the company's fiscal 3rd quarter (ended June). The ubiquitous gadget-maker reported $7.47 per share on revenues totalling $35.32 billion in the quarter. The Zacks Consensus Estimates were for $7.31 per share on $34.97 billion in sales.

The Zacks ESP had predicted this exact earnings beat for Apple; its Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) combined with a more-accurate estimate revision up 2.19% nailed it: a 2.19% positive surprise. Not too shabby for Apple, but pretty great for us here at Zacks!

Apple sold 31.2 million iPhones in the last 3 months, more than 4 million more than the company had projected. "Only" 14.6 million iPads were sold in the quarter; 18 million had been expected. The 3.8 million Macs sold during the period was pretty much right in line, and gross margin was toward the high end of its expected range.

Revenue expectations for Q4 are between $34 - 37 billion; the Zacks Consensus before the bell was $36.1 billion. Projected gross margin between 36 - 37% remains consistent with Q3 numbers. The gangbusters days are clearly over near-term for Apple, but it only stands to reason that once everyone already owns your products, your margins are going to temper a bit.

And while it's true the company is posting EPS numbers far lower than a year ago and previous to that, Apple's beat on the top and bottom lines today helped investors breathe a big sigh of relief -- after trading down 1.7% in the regular session Tuesday, AAPL shares are up about 5% in the after-market.

During the (second) Steve Jobs tenure, Apple would absolutely demolish expectations, but that seems a long time ago these days. Modest misses and beats each quarter are pretty much how it's been going lately for the company. But with no new products released in the last couple quarters, stadium-clearing EPS homeruns are no longer so realistic.

It used to be the veritable centerpiece of earnings season each quarter -- Apple, Inc.'s earnings. Now that torch seems to be passed on to companies like Netflix (NFLX - Analyst Report) which reported yesterday and Facebook (FB - Analyst Report), whose earnings come out tomorrow. But if earnings and revenue beats like the one today are going to help AAPL shares rally back, I'm sure they'll be OK with it.

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