Is Apple’s Meteoric Rise Coming to an End?

It’s hard to believe Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) could have any tricks still left up its sleeve, and yet the company continues to announce higher sales and profit margins quarter after quarter. Numbers have been growing rapidly, exponentially, over the last few years, but after the company experienced an extremely successful holiday quarter last year following the launch of its new iPhone, analysts were expecting something less impressive for the first quarter of 2012. They were wrong.

Apple delivered results last week that proved the tech giant is not quite done growing — not just yet. The company’s performance in the January to March quarter was even more impressive when taking into consideration there had been real expectations of a domestic sales shortfall after the country’s two largest wireless companies reported lower iPhone sales figures ahead of Apple’s own report. But Apple did not need to rely on Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T (NYSE:T), it seems; it was getting a new burst from markets it is just beginning to fully discover.

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In the afterglow of the earnings release and refreshed predictions that Apple is well on its way to becoming the first trillion-dollar company in history, one thing has become clear: its competitors have nothing on it.

The iPhone made up 60 percent of smartphone sales in the U.S. last quarter. Android-based smartphones, which rank right behind, have the problem of being split between too many equipment manufacturers. While users of Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system appreciate the software, the fragmentation in hardware leads to complications that ultimately make for unhappy consumers. Conversely, the iPhone delivers a more universal package, with Apple controlling its own software as well as hardware.

The scenario is mirrored in the tablet market, with the iPad being the runaway leader. While Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle Fire offers a competitive advantage with its $200 price tag — compared to the new iPad’s $500 starting price — it’s still in a distant second behind the iPad. Other Android tablets are struggling even more to widen their respective market share. The Kindle Fire makes up 50 percent of the overall Android share, while Samsung’s Galaxy Tab holds 15 percent of the Android market.

Samsung is Apple’s closest competitor, as its own mega successful earnings from Friday prove, but the world’s biggest mobile phone seller still has some way to go in the U.S. smartphone and global tablet segment. While Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) was in a similarly strong position once when Windows seemed to be the only option for users, Apple, despite strong products from competitors, is running away as the top choice among consumers.

Apple is already beginning to make moves into the enterprise and education segments, hitherto dominated by Windows. For that reason the scope of expansion in those markets is still huge.

However, the biggest reason why Apple is still on a growth path is its steady move into overseas markets, headlined by China. The company made up for domestic shortages with huge sales there, with revenue from the Chinese market increasing threefold in the last year to $8 billion in the January to March quarter. Because of a trademark argument, Apple has not yet been able to launch the new iPad in China, but when it does, look out! Apple is also said to be in the process of chalking up an iPhone deal with the country’s largest wireless carrier, with upwards of 650 million subscribers: China Mobile (NYSE:CHL).

So even though it has already raked up massive successes, uncharted growth areas remain, and that puts Apple firmly on the road to becoming the world’s most valuable company many times over.