BlackBerry: Overshadowed by the Greater Fruit, Apple

It would be hard to say BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) is having a good time after comparing its sales for the past 5 quarters to Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) sales over the same period.

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For Apple, each of the past consecutive 5 quarters have seen year-on-year improvements in iPhone and iPad sales. Not a single quarter saw a sales decline from the same period a year earlier. In the quarter ending December 31, 2011, both Apple’s iPhones and iPads more than doubled their sales from the year-ago quarter, with 37 million and 15.4 million units sold, respectively.

BlackBerry, on the other hand, consistently posted sales that were down from the year-ago quarter, except once. BlackBerry’s phone sales have been lagging the competition brought by higher-end smartphones running iOS and Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, so the company’s 2012 slump was not unexpected. BlackBerry smartphone sales fell at rate between 26 and 51 percent year-on-year. Additionally, the company’s smartphone sales haven’t exceeded 8 million units since March 3, 2012, and they have since been steadily falling from quarter to quarter.

Oddly, BlackBerry’s PlayBook tablets have been a minor — read very minor — deviation to that trends. The company sold just 500,000 units in the quarter ended March 3, 2012, and that number decreased during the following two quarters, but then it turned back up in the quarter ended December 1, 2012, with 255,000 sales reported — which was a 70 percent year-on-year increase. During the following quarter, which ended earlier this month, the tablet’s sales reached 370,000, beating the previous quarter, although they were still a decrease year-on-year.

The most important trends these figures illustrate are Apple’s continuing growth and BlackBerry’s ongoing fall from its one-time position at the top of the smartphone rankings. The iPhone’s consistent growth, with tens of millions of sales, shows steady strength compared to BlackBerry’s sales, which haven’t broken 10 million in a whole year. The iPad and PlayBook tablet are nearly incomparable, as the iPad soared to 22.9 million units sold in Apple’s last reported period, while the PlayBook tablet has yet to break 1 million units sold.

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Some people had hope that the release of BB10 and its latest smartphone, the Z10 touchscreen device, would improve sales, but the number are only showing a continued decline. Even if it can boost margins, the company will need sales to benefit from them. In the end, it may rely on its service business to stay afloat, while Apple can safely rely on its devices for now.

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