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Reports of halved iPhone component orders overblown, says Tim Cook

Apple CEO Tim Cook downplayed reports that the company had slimmed down orders for iPhone components amidst sluggish demand.

During a fourth-quarter earnings call with analysts yesterday, Cook said he didn't want to comment on the specific rumours from the Wall Street Journal and Nikkei ("I would spend my whole life doing that," he said), but encouraged people to "question the accuracy of any rumor about build plans."

Citing "people familiar with the situation," the Journal said last week that orders for iPhone 5 screens had been halved, while Apple had also cut down on orders for other iPhone parts. On the same day, Japan's Nikkei said Apple cut orders from Asia-based LCD panel suppliers Sharp, LG Display Co., and Japan Display.

Cook, however, said that "even if a particular data point were factual," that doesn't tell the whole story. "It would be impossible to actually interpret as to what it meant for our overall business."

"The supply chain is very complex," Cook continued, pointing to the different relationships Apple has with its suppliers. There is "just an inordinately long list of things that would make any single data point not a great proxy for what's going on."

Cook did not elaborate on exactly "what's going on," but Apple had a very successful quarter when it came to iPhone sales. It moved 47.8 million iPhones in the fourth quarter, up from 37 million in Q4 2011 and the 26.9 million iPhones it sold during the third quarter of 2012, though many users were likely waiting for the release of the iPhone 5 at that point.

When asked if Apple might pursue different screen sizes for the iPhone, Cook danced around the topic a bit, arguing that the iPhone 5's 4in Retina display "is the most advanced display in the industry." He suggested that people want to be able to hold their phones in one hand, so the iPhone 5 "provides a larger screen size without sacrificing the one-handed ease of use."

"We put a lot of thinking into screen size and believe me, we picked the right one," Cook said.

Those who want a larger screen can always pick up the 7.9in iPad mini. Apple sold 22.9 million tablets, and while Apple didn't break out stats on iPad vs. iPad mini, Cook insisted that Apple saw "strong sales" of both versions.