In a decade of earnings calls, Apple executives spoke less positively than other tech firms and mentioned its flagship product, the iPhone, a lot.
That’s according to a new report by research firm CB Insights, which used a machine learning platform to analyze 40 quarters worth of earnings calls made by tech firms including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon, between 2008 and 2017.
What Does Apple Talk About?
As can be expected, the most used word in Apple’s earnings calls since 2008 has been “iPhone” — and it’s really not even close. The iPhone was, by and far, the most commonly referred-to product in Apple’s calls with two exceptions: the iPad in 2011 and 2012 and the Apple Watch in 2015.
Of course, Apple still spoke about the iPad and Mac quite frequently. Aside from its products, the two most commonly used words in Apple earnings calls referred to regions critical to the firm: the U.S. and China. In fact, Apple talked the most about China among all of the tech companies analyzed.
“Channel,” “Investors,” “iOS,” “Japan,” “App Store” and “iPod” also ranked high among Apple’s commonly uttered words.
Interestingly, CB Insights also found that Apple’s earnings calls did not have the “sunniest” outlook among the tech firms that they analyzed. Apple CEO Tim Cook and CFO Luca Maestri had the least positive sentiment among CEO/CFO pairings — though their sentiments were still positive overall, just less positive than other executives.
Additionally, Cook and Maestri both spoke at a 9th grade level, based on the word length, sentence length, and word complexity of their respective call languages. Both executives also used fairly vague language, though most other tech CEOs or CFOs in the research did as well.
Competition, Innovation, Ambiguity
Among other interesting findings, the firm discovered that Google and Apple frequently talk about their competition (each other), while Amazon doesn’t really mention rival tech firms at all in its earnings calls.
Google also talked the most about voice or voice-based products, and also used the words “innovation” or “innovative” the most. Amazon spoke the most about “customers,” while Microsoft was found to be shifting its focus away from individual consumers and toward enterprise clients.
Among all of the CEOs, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella had the least vague language but scored an 11th grade level and used the most jargon. Mark Zuckerberg had the most positive sentiment among chief executives, while Tim Cook was the most vague overall. Interestingly, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos no longer participates in earnings calls at all.
To get the results, CB Insights used a suite of linguistic algorithms that it developed specifically for analyzing earnings calls. The algorithms generated a set of scores based on the language used within each call, which CB Insights parsed to get their results.
The analysis firm said that the reasoning behind analyzing earnings calls is that they are a good way to “reveal corporate strategy and provide insight into executive and corporate confidence on expectations for the future.”