Quartz Weekend Brief—Apple’s next trick, the global gender imbalance, the battle for Donetsk, addiction treatment

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Many of tech’s largest firms reported fourth-quarter earnings this week, including Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Yahoo, and Facebook. For the most part, results were as expected—nothing exceptionally high or embarrassingly low. That is, except Apple, which beat analysts’ sales estimates by a wide margin, thanks to one product alone: the new iPhone.

Apple shipped almost 75 million iPhones in the Christmas quarter. That was several million more than expected and beat its previous record—set the year before—by more than 20 million. The company’s overall sales nearly reached $75 billion for the quarter, up 30% over last year. The iPhone, with $51 billion in sales, represented nearly 70% of Apple’s overall business—the highest percentage ever, up from 56% the prior quarter.

A big part of the iPhone’s success can likely be attributed to one decision: To finally offer it in larger sizes, matching the phones that Android rivals, such as Samsung and Motorola, have made for years. On Apple’s earnings call, CEO Tim Cook said the company saw a record number of new iPhone customers and more people switching from Android than for any of the previous three iPhone versions.

Of course, now that Apple’s met the demand for larger phones, it risks disappointing investors next time. Surely, nothing else can deliver such a big jump in sales? But perhaps the shift to larger smartphones will serve a secondary purpose. Paul Kedrosky, the financial commentator, theorized this week that Apple has created a “portability deficit”—i.e., big phones are cumbersome. This, Kedrosky posits, will prove helpful as Apple starts selling its new iPhone accessory, the Apple Watch, this April.—Dan Frommer

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

China’s backlash against women with PhDs. If a woman reaches the “ripe” old age of 27 and hasn’t found a husband, she’s considered shengnu or “leftover.” As Lily Kuo found out, conservative views and norms are returning to a country that once upon a time treated women as equals in the nation’s economic effort.

So you think you’ve been around the world? Nikhil Sonnad has a quiz for you: Eight audio clips, each playing a different language, and you have to pick the right one out of a choice of four. Even if know your Urdu from your Farsi, can you tell Zulu apart from Swahili?

There are now 60 million more men than women on Earth. It’s a new record that can be attributable to multiple reasons, depending on geography. In a series of charts, David Bauer explains how war, alcoholism, economic migration, and preferences for sons over daughters has driven an imbalance that evolution would normally eliminate.

Hold on to your teacup—fracking is set to explode in the UK. It’s expensive, it’s known to cause environmental damage, and Scotland is resisting it, yet the exploration of hard-to-reach shale gas will continue in much of Britain. Cassie Werber and David Yanofsky have plotted out where potential wells might crop up.

It pays to have rich parents. Economists can’t decide what the right labor-force participation rate should be, but they cringe when it falls. And that drop, Tim Fernholz found out, isn’t disturbed evenly. America’s lower half, by household income, is working harder than ever. It’s the rich kids that are opting to chill out.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

How Donetsk airport was lost. For 242 days, Ukrainian government forces held the strategic airport against a siege by pro-Russian rebels. Last week, their defenses failed. Sergei Loiko of the Los Angeles Times reconstructs the final, deadly days of battle, setting the bitterness and anger of troops against the defiance of the generals and the deadly human cost of the war in Ukraine.

The red-hot bubble of East New York. One of Brooklyn’s poorest areas has suddenly been overtaken by the forces of gentrification. Andrew Rice in New York Magazine shows how it has become a microcosm of the dilemmas and conflicts that neighborhoods everywhere face when the money starts to move in.

The malpractice of addiction treatment. Treating opiate addicts with drugs like Suboxone greatly reduces overdose deaths. But such treatment is banned in swaths of the USA, where addicts end up in 12-step-programs that usually fail them. Jason Cherkis’s devastating year-long investigation for The Huffington Post delves into the restrictive laws, resistance to medical fact, and outdated treatment models that contribute to thousands of deaths every year.

What if Apple really were a country? The company’s sheer size makes comparisons to countries almost inevitable. But simply comparing revenue to GDP is bad economics, says Matthew Klein at FT Alphaville. Running more rigorous numbers, he places Apple just behind Ecuador and just ahead of Oman, while its liquid holdings as a share of economic output are roughly equivalent to Norway’s.

The social anthropology of the supertweet. Ian Bogost at the Atlantic dissects the subtle ramifications of the seemingly simple act of tweeting someone’s name without using their Twitter handle. Best of all, we can’t be entirely sure his whole argument isn’t an elaborate joke on people who take Twitter too seriously.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, language quiz entries, and flawed company/country comparisons to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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