Apple's decision to share its cash with shareholders comes at an interesting time. Tuesday, it confirmed its quarterly profits dropped 18 percent -- the first drop in a decade. Apple appears to be trying hard to build investor confidence at the same time consumers are being lured away by innovations from Apple's competitors.
One quarter doesn't make or break a company, especially when the post-Christmas period is the slowest of the year for electronics. But an 18 percent drop in profits does reflect that profit margins have shrunk as Apple starts to make and sell smaller or lower priced devices to entice overseas and bargain shoppers.
CEO Tim Cook told reporters he is very frustrated by its declining stock price but that Apple remains strong. Apple has loyal consumers. However, some consumers' perception of Apple may be changing as it keeps its new product development highly secret. Google, by comparison, has been very open about its foray into self-driving cars and Google Glass, which it has been giving out selectively to test.
"I think Google is definitely getting and justifiably a lot of credit for being innovative," Gartner Mobile Research Vice President Van Baker said.
Baker tracks both companies as a mobile analyst for Gartner. But he recognizes that Google is prone to drop ideas as fast as it creates them.
"You don't know what projects are going to survive and which ones are going to go away, and they tend to pull the trigger on some products and some efforts and some projects fairly quickly," he said.
Cook did say Apple has some amazing new hardware coming out next year, but he didn't say anything about this year.
"Owning an Apple product, I really do believe they are losing their edge because there's more technology that they say they have, but they're making it come out, their product very slowly," iPad owner Jay Patel said.
The anticipation can be hard to bear, but apple has a record of delivering when it's ready.
"To suggest that Apple's days are over, they're not going to grow anymore, is probably a bad perception," tech analyst Tim Bajarin said.
Apple is a global company that makes more revenue overseas than it does in the United States and the bright spot Tuesday was an 11 percent increase in revenue from China, a market with great potential.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.