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Apple earnings beat expectations

Strong iPhone growth in China boosted the company's quarterly earnings.
The Apple logo hangs on the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue on Aug. 5, 2015 in New York, N.Y. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty)
The Apple logo hangs on the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue on Aug. 5, 2015 in New York, N.Y.

Apple on Tuesday posted quarterly earnings and revenue that topped analysts' expectations, boosted by strong iPhone growth in China.

Apple reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings per share of $1.96 on revenue of $51.5 billion.

Analysts expected the tech giant to report earnings of $1.88 per share on $51.11 billion in revenue, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters. Shares rose about 3% percent in extended trading following the results.

The company sold 48.04 million iPhones in the quarter, as well as 9.88 million iPads. Both fell slightly short of Wall Street's expectations, according to StreetAccount.

"The fact of the matter is the smartphone market is maturing, unit sales are slowing down. Apple's doing a great job of taking more share, but that dependency on the iPhone remains and that skepticism among investors remains," Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Financial, told CNBC.

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CEO Tim Cook told CNBC the company saw "no sign of a slowdown in China." Revenue in greater China rose 99% from the previous year to $12.52 billion, but was down 5% sequentially.

iPhone shipments in China rose 87% from the previous year, Cook added. 

Apple also provided guidance for the key fiscal-first quarter's sales that came in at the low end of analysts' estimates. It expects sales of $75.5 billion to $77.5 billion; analysts had expected sales of about $77.17 billion.

Ross Gerber of Gerber Kawasaki told CNBC he expects iPhone sales to lead to a strong first quarter.

Apple's cash pile also rose to about $206 billion in the fourth quarter. Gerber contended Apple reported a strong quarter, but the stock may not have reacted because investors want to see Apple use its cash.

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The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus launched last month, and Apple said it sold 13 million units, including in China, during its first weekend. The Apple Watch also launched earlier this year. The company has yet to disclose shipment numbers.

At a recent conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook said "we shipped a lot the first quarter, then last quarter we shipped even more. And I can predict this quarter we will ship even more."

Apple shares have fallen about 8% since the day after its last quarterly results in July.

CNBC's Josh Lipton contributed to this report. This article originally appeared on