updated 4/22/2009 5:39:34 PM ET 2009-04-22T21:39:34

Strong sales of the iPhone helped Apple Inc. lift its quarterly profit 15 percent, well ahead of Wall Street's expectations Wednesday despite the global economic downturn.

For the three months ended March 28, Apple's fiscal second-quarter earnings rose to $1.21 billion, $1.33 per share. In the same period last year Apple earned $1.05 billion, or $1.16 per share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had forecast a per-share profit of $1.09.

Sales increased 9 percent to $8.16 billion, topping analyst expectations for $7.96 billion.

"Gee, given what's going on around us, we couldn't be happier," said Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer in an interview.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple said it sold 3.8 million iPhones in the quarter, more than twice as many as a year ago. Earlier Wednesday, the iPhone's exclusive U.S. carrier, AT&T Inc., said its earnings were also helped by the popularity of the device.

Apple also sold 11 million iPods, up 3 percent.

But its Macintosh computer line didn't fare quite as well. People bought 2.2 million Macs, a 3 percent drop. Apple updated its desktop line in March, but didn't cut prices.

For the current fiscal third quarter, the company issued typically conservative guidance of 95 cents to $1 per share in profit on $7.7 billion to $7.9 billion in revenue. Analysts are looking for a profit of $1.12 per share on $8.28 billion in sales.

Apple's shares added $3.33, nearly 3 percent, to $124.84 in after-hours trading after slipping 25 cents to end the regular session at $121.51.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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