This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here is a collection of past columns.

$ 3,000,000,000,000.

That was (briefly) the total value of Apple stock on Monday. It was worth a whopping $ 2.93 trillion on Wednesday morning – still an insane number no company has hit before.

The milestone is a useful moment to delve into the identity of Apple and the rest of American tech giants. Big tech companies are smart at making products and even smarter at making money. That’s one big reason Apple is worth so much.

What is Apple’s superpower? With clever tweaks and desirable new products, it has extended the life of its iPhone empire well beyond when it might have declined. What should have been Apple’s weakness – its reliance on the iPhone at a time when smartphones are no longer selling like hotcakes – was instead a source of strength.

How to know google and facebook are abundant in advertising for socks and hotel stays, understanding the nuts and bolts behind Apple’s performance helps demystify the technology titans who have gripped both our awe and ridicule.

In the spirit of Tuesday’s newsletter on the subject of technology Misjudgments, I will confess that I was wrong about Apple. Six years ago I wrote a pillar for Bloomberg Opinion – the first of many of its kind – which says Apple is bumping into a wall.

Since then, Apple’s sales have grown more than $ 132 billion, or roughly three times Tesla’s sales since 2015. Apple’s profits are unreal, and we’re probably paying too much for them their $ 19 cleaning rag.

I still think I’m right about Apple, but I’m just not right yet. (You might call this wrong. I won’t argue.) The facts remain: The company’s flagship product, smartphones, has moved from wow to normal, and people don’t buy new ones as often anymore.

Around 1.4 billion new smartphones were sold worldwide in 2015. In 2021, the market research company IDC estimates total sales at … about 1.4 billion. The portion of iPhones – roughly one in seven – hasn’t moved much either. There are exceptions to this flat sales trend, including last year when a ton of new iPhones were sold.

But above all, smartphones are now that: a wonderful and indispensable product that people don’t buy very often, like refrigerators, cars, and televisions. In theory, if we buy fewer phones, it should be bad for Apple. Instead, Apple did a great job of being extremely smart at making money and convincing customers that they should buy what it sells.

Apple has figured out ways to sell far more types of iPhones than before, including ultra-expensive ones. It has mastered underrated details like self-designed computer chips and Makes iPhone buyers pay more for add-ons like extra space to store photos. And the company is always creating new ways to make money from things that make iPhones more useful, including dating app subscriptions, AirPods headphones, and computer clocks.

This is not a departure by Apple from its identity as an iPhone company. It leans further into its iPhone addiction. I would say that It will be difficult for Apple to continue doing thisbut smartphones have been selling for six years and Apple is doing great.

None of this fully explains Apple’s rise to $ 3 trillion. Honestly, money doesn’t make sense at the moment. And the big tech companies tend to produce consistent and steadily increasing profits that are stock buyers ready to pay.

There’s also excitement about Apple launching its first products in the year Face computers and driverless cars that, like the iPhone, could lead other companies to follow suit and make Apple even richer.

Apple’s problems with smart software – have you been yelling at Siri lately for clueless? – suggest that it won’t be a piece of cake for the company to keep winning Metaverse and artificial intelligence future. However, this is not a prediction. I’m done making Apple predictions.

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