Perpetual underdog AOL has had a better year than tech behemoth Apple, if we're looking at one particular metric: The percent by which their stocks have changed since January 2012, as Business Insider's Jay Yarow shows in this Google Finance chart he put together. This might lead one to believe that AOL has had a great year—perhaps even a better one than Apple. But, that's not really what's going on here: Apple still dominates AOL. Apple's stock has the highest market capitalization of any stock on the market, hitting new highs following the release of the iPhone 4S last November. After the holiday season, it sold a lot of iPhones and iPads and posted record earnings that January, and its stock continued the same very high upward trajectory. But, the company has since posted two consecutive quarters of still very monster, but not as voracious earnings reports. The stock hasn't tanked, but it has "disappointed Wall Street," as they say, since the holiday sales and iPhone 4S announcement were hard acts to follow. Of course, nobody is worried that Apple won't bring it back up even higher following the impending release of the iPhone 5 this fall and then those holiday sales.
AOL, on the other hand, had more room to grow. The company's stock is now trading around $32, hundreds of dollars below Apple's $578. The thing is, it started the year very low: at $15.10. The latest bump comes from a better than expected earnings report, as MSN Money's Jonathan Berr explains: "The New York-based company is producing mediocre results instead of god-awful ones," he writes. "AOL earned $970.8 million, or $10.17 per share, reversing a year-ago loss of $11.8 million, or 11 cents. But that was thanks mostly to the company’s recent $1.1 billion patent sale to Microsoft." When we're talking percent change, it's easier to look like a success when the starting point is extremely low.