IBTimes UK

Iconic tech giant Apple Inc [AAPL.O] became the subject of unflattering chatter after it reported it sold 51 million iPhones between January and March 2016, raking in $33 billion in revenues.

There is talk of 'peak Apple', questions are asked if Apple will ever be able to stay at the top of the innovation curve and doubts raised if the latest quarterly data is a harbinger of the company's descent into the twilight.

In fact, the unparallel success and market leadership Apple sustained over the last one decade have presented the company with seemingly insurmountable statistical odds.

The fiscal second quarter data on Apple's sales and revenue came in stark contrast to the same set of data a year ago. Between January and March 2015, Apple had sold 61 million iPhones, 10 million more than in the latest quarter.

Apple shares dropped about 8 percent, falling $100 for the first time since February, after the quarterly sales numbers were revealed.

Apple also reported its first revenue drop in 13 years and said sales in China, its biggest market after the US, fell by more than a quarter.

Profits edged sharply lower, with net income falling to $10.5 billion from $13.6 billion in the same quarter last year.

Apple's earnings per share of $1.90 fell short of Reuters' average analyst estimate of $2 while revenue of $50.56 billion also missed expectations of $51.97 billion.

The company also disappointed investors with a lower than expected revenue forecast for third-quarter between $41 billion to $43 billion.

Is Apple's future bleak in a market it invented? Many investors think the course ahead is less certain than in the past, and even top executives at Apple hint at a challenging road ahead.

Analysts endorse the view that the path is rough for smartphone pioneers, leaders, upstarts and pretenders alike.

The consensus view is that global smartphone market is in for a turbulent ride as the market has reached near saturation levels.

Gartner said in a report that smartphone sales growth could slow to 7 percent in 2016, which will be the first-ever single-digit growth in the segment.

"The double-digit growth era for the global smartphone market has come to an end," Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal said.

Gartner data also showed global smartphone sales logged their weakest growth rate since 2008 in the last year, at just 9.7 percent year-on-year.

So what's the course for smartphone pioneer Apple now?

For Apple to replicate an iPhone-like success is a tough challenge. Its iPad sales peaked in 2013 and now iPhone has apparently hit the first humps on the highway. Apple hasn't given details of how its Apple Watch is performing but estimates show it's not a runaway success like the iPhone. Now, will Apple pull off another miraculous win with the rumoured Apple Car?

"Apple needs to come up with a radical new innovation or product rather than just the current incremental improvements to existing products. This is the only way in which it will reinvigorate sales growth," Neil Saunders, chief executive of research firm Conlumino, told Reuters.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook admitted that the smartphone market was not growing though he also insisted that the tech pioneer had an amazing future with many more gadgets in the pipeline.

Cook said after iPhone 6S was launched customers were replacing phones at a much lower rate than the previous iterations. "I don't mean just a hair lower; it's a lot lower," he said. "If we'd had the same rate on 6S as 6, it would be time for a huge party," he added.

Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri echoed the same view but spun the outlook in a different way, saying that the success of the iPhone 6 had set a difficult bar to beat in the second quarter. "The iPhone 6 is an anomaly," he said, according to Reuters.

IBTimes UK