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Apple shipped one billionth iOS device in Q1, expects continued iPhone momentum

During its quarterly conference call on Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the company had sold its one billionth iOS device in the December quarter, a device that will be kept at Cupertino for posterity.

Apple's one billionth iOS device shipment, a number calculated from total iPhone, iPad and iPod touch sales, is emblematic of the mobile operating system's global appeal and marks a momentous achievement for the consumer electronics space.

"On Nov. 22, we shipped our one billionth iOS device," Cook said. "It was a space-gray 64GB iPhone 6 Plus, which we've saved here at Apple."

It's fitting that an Phone 6 Plus was the billionth device sold as the handset is Apple's latest and greatest smartphone. With shipments consistently in the tens of millions, rocketing up to 74.5 million for the three months ending in December, the iPhone can be considered as the platform on which iOS truly came into its own.

Early in the call, Cook put this quarter's iPhone sales numbers into perspective, saying the massive 74.5 million units sold equates to about 34,000 handsets "every hour, 24 hours a day, every day of the quarter."

Despite record sales, Cook said there is ample space for growth in upgraders and, perhaps more importantly, first-time smartphone buyers. Apple did not reveal an exact customer mix for the first fiscal quarter, but Cook noted the percentage of people upgrading from older devices was below 14 percent, and in fact only barely cracked the teens.

Cook also mentioned sustained momentum driven by consumers living in burgeoning markets, many of whom do not yet own a smartphone.

As some expected, the larger 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus "phablet" drew a large number of users away from Android devices. Prior to the current iPhone generation, critics of the handset negatively compared screen size with Android smartphones that were usually much larger. It appears the decision to go bigger paid off.