Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) released that its third quarter financial results after the market close today. The tech giant reported that its earnings increased to $1.28 per share from $1.04 per share in the same period a year ago. Its revenue rose from $35.3 billion to $37.4 billion.

The earnings of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) beat the $1.23 per share expected by Wall Street analysts, but its revenue slightly fell short of their $37.99 billion estimate.  Its gross margin increased from 36.9% to 39.4% during the period.

Strong iPhone sales

According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, the company benefited from the strong sales of iPhone during the quarter. He said, “Our record June quarter revenue was fueled by strong sales of iPhone and Mac and the continued growth of revenue from the Apple ecosystem, driving our highest EPS growth rate in seven quarters.”

During the quarter, the tech giant sold 35.2 million iPhones, an increase of 12.7% from the 31.2 million units sold in the same period a year earlier. Analysts forecasted that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) will be able to sell around 35.9 million iPhone for the period.

According to Cook, the company experienced strong demand for iPhones in Brazil, Russia, India, and India, which are collectively called as BRIC countries. Cook noted that the iPhone sales in these countries increased 55%. In China alone, its sales rose 48%. “The BRIC countries were unbelievable,” said Cook.

Cook added that the management of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is “incredibly excited about the upcoming releases of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, as well as other new products and services that we can’t wait to introduce.”

Apple CFO Luca Maestri said the company generated $10.3 billion in cash flow from operations, and returned $8 billion in cash to investors through dividends and shares buyback during the third-quarter.

“We have now taken action on over $74 billion of our $130 billion capital return program with six quarters remaining to its completion,” according to Maestri.

Business outlook

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is expecting to deliver revenue in the range of $37 billion to $40 billion for the fourth quarter. Its gross margin is expected to be around 37% to 38%. The tech giant estimated its operating expenses around $4.75 billion to $4.85 billion and expected its tax rate around 26.1%.