“It’s the mother of all earnings reports. Apple’s slated to report earnings and guidance after the close of trading, and given the malaise towards the iPhone maker lately, Apple will need to show something extraordinary to excite investors and regain the aura that’s surrounded the company in the past,” Chris Ciaccia writes for TheStreet.

“Judging by recent smartphone numbers from Verizon and AT&T, iPhone activations are less of a concern than they were, which should be a positive for Apple this quarter,” Ciaccia writes. “Verizon activated 6.2 million iPhones in its most recent quarter, with half of them iPhone 5s. AT&T said it activated 10.2 million smartphones, with most analysts believing that around 75% of them were iPhones.”

Ciaccia writes, “Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters are looking for earnings of $13.47 a share on $54.7 billion in revenue. The most important number in the earnings release, in my opinion, is gross margin… J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz believes Apple can achieve 39.3% in gross margins this quarter, which would bode well for earnings… Margins really are the key to the report, as well as forward guidance, said one hedge fund analyst who declined to be named. “If they guide weak on margins, no EPS number will be good enough because everyone is so worried about the future that the recent past loses its relevance.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: We will have Apple’s results as soon as they are available, right around 4:30pm EST today, followed by live notes from Apple’s Q113 conference call with analysts at 5pm Eastern (check the front page at 4:45pm for the coverage link.)