ppUS technology giant Apple has reported the biggest quarterly profit ever made by a public company.

Apple reported a net profit of $18bn (£11.8bn) in its fiscal first quarter, which tops the $15.9bn made by ExxonMobil in the second quarter of 2012, according to Standard and Poor’s.

Record sales of iPhones were behind the surge in profits.

Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones in the three months to 27 December – well ahead of most analysts’ expectations.

In a conference call with financial analysts Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook said that demand for phones was “staggering”.

However, sales of the iPad continued to disappoint, falling by 22% in 2014 from a year earlier.

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The demand for Apple’s larger iPhone 6 Plus model appeared to help boost profits and increase the iPhone’s gross profit margin – or how much Apple makes per product – by 2% to 39.9%.

However, Apple did not give a breakdown of sales for the iPhone 6 and other models.

Apple shares rose more than 5% in trading after the US markets had closed.

Buster Hein, who edits the “Cult of Mac” website, told the BBC that iPhone sales had surpassed expectations.

“Oh my gosh, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “I mean, a lot of us were expecting good iPhone sales during the holidays, but I don’t think anybody really thought Apple was going to blow past 70 million units sold,” he said.

“Apple became the number one smartphone company in China in the last quarter, which was just huge for them,” he added.

Apple’s impressive results represent a significant shift towards the massive untapped potential of China.

With a strong line-up of devices entering the final quarter, it was able to reap the fruits of its deal with the world’s biggest mobile network, China Mobile.

However, the success of its latest big-screen iPhones may have contributed to further cannibalising sales of the iPad.

The once unstoppable tablet is being further squeezed both by a resurgence in laptop sales, as well as by competition – both in an increasingly saturated US market and in emerging markets by lower-priced, rival machines.

All eyes now are on the Apple Watch – but with a relatively high base price it is not clear whether it will be able to woo more than the Apple faithful.

BBC.com