Technology giants like Google, Microsoft and Apple often polarise the marketplace, evoking strong differences of opinions between fans and detractors of the products and services they provide.

But love them or hate them, it turns out most people actually do love Apple, with the firm declaring the largest profits ever made by a public company in the three months to 27th December 2014. It’s thought that record sales of iPhones during the past year were mainly responsible for Apple posting a profit of £11.8 billion (£$18 billion) in its first fiscal quarter.

[themecolor]Demand for iPhones ‘staggering’[/themecolor]

Christmas sales of iPhones reached a phenomenal 74.5 million units in the final quarter of 2014. Well ahead of most analysts’ expectations, the devices lifted the company’s revenues by 30 per cent, thanks mostly to demand for the larger iPhone 6 Plus model.

The sales surprised even Apple itself, with the firm’s chief executive Tim Cook describing the demand as “staggering”. Even disappointing sales of the iPad could not make a big enough dint in the company’s success, despite its tablet sales falling by 22 per cent in 2014 from a year earlier.

Apple’s whopping revenue tops the previous profit record set by multinational oil giant ExxonMobil in 2012, following a surge in oil prices at the time. The tech giant’s cash pile amounts to more than the total market value of Disney, Pepsi or Amazon, notes

The net effect thrusts the firm to the top spot as the world’s most valuable company, with a market capitalisation of £428.5 billion ($650 billion).

[themecolor]China emerges as largest iPhone market[/themecolor]

China remains a strong market for the US-based company, where Apple became the number one smartphone manufacturer in the last quarter. Claiming the iPhone has “transformed” the mobile phone industry, BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones says: “A lot of this, at the moment, is about China, where this brand has got extraordinary cachet. They [Apple] sold more phones in China in the last quarter than they have in the United States.”

Apple’s next product – the Apple Watch – is a venture into the wearable technology sector. On schedule, the watch is to begin shipping this April.