Was the iPhone 8 launch dented by people holding out for the iPhone X?
Apple doesn’t do things by halves, but launching the latest continuum in the iPhone line-up, the iPhone 8, just ahead of a snazzy new iPhone X – to mark 10 years of the iPhone and set a new direction – may be a case of doing too much at once. Or is it?
It’s an interesting conundrum for the Californian tech giant and one might wonder if Apple just cannibalised the iPhone 8 launch?
‘Apple grew in Q3, but it was these older, cheaper models that propped up total iPhone shipments. Apple is clearly making a portfolio play here’
– BEN STANTON
New figures in from Canalys show that Apple sold fewer models of the iPhone 8 compared with the iPhone 7 this time last year, and that the iPhone 7 continues to be the biggest seller for Apple.
Apple shipped 46.7m smartphones in Q3 2017. The new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus accounted for approximately 11.8m of these. This falls well short of its predecessor, the iPhone 7 line, which topped 14m in its first quarter.
But, while Apple shipped 5.4m units of the iPhone 8, it shipped 6.3m of the larger iPhone 8 Plus. This makes the latter the first iPhone Plus model to out-ship its smaller sibling in a single quarter.
How do you like them apples?
But where it gets really interesting is that the iPhone 7, launched in the third quarter of last year, continues to be the bestselling smartphone model in the world, with 13m models sold in Q3 2017.
Not only that, but the iPhone 6s launched in 2016 was a distant second, after an uptick that resulted in 7.9m shipments. Again, an interesting but welcome conundrum for Apple, which shows its devices are lasting the test of time in a smartphone market that tends to move at hyper speed.
Samsung’s Galaxy J2 Prime was third, with 7.8m shipped, while Oppo took fourth and fifth place, with its A57 and R11 shipping 7.8m and 7.2m units, respectively.
Apple’s iPhone 8, which launched in mid-September, did not make the top five.
Worldwide smartphone shipments reached 375.9m, up 5.9pc year on year, according to Canalys.
“Shipments of older devices, such as the iPhone 6s and SE, saw an uptick in Q3,” said analyst Ben Stanton.
“The iPhone 7 also shipped strongly after its price cut in September. Apple grew in Q3, but it was these older, cheaper models that propped up total iPhone shipments. Apple is clearly making a portfolio play here.
“With the launch of the iPhone X, it now has five tiers of iPhone and delivers iOS at more price bands than ever before. This is a new strategy for Apple. It is aggressively defending its market share, but it will not compromise its rigid margin structure to do so.”
Another interesting question is: what will Apple do to plug the glaring hole that is the iPhone 9 in the continuum of devices? Will it just do a Microsoft on it and pretend there is no ninth generation? Will there be a new device category that will emerge, perhaps a successor to the SE that will be given the 9 status, or will it continue to subtly update models on the same chassis as the 6, 7 and 8 generations? Only Apple really knows.
End of golden era of differentiated product for Samsung
While Apple has an abundant harvest to mull over, its arch-rival Samsung shipped 82.8m smartphones in Q3 – 8.2pc more than in Q3 2016.
This was thanks to growth in its J series, which did particularly well in India and the Middle East.
Samsung’s new Galaxy Note8 dispelled any remaining negative sentiment around the Note series, shipping a solid 4.4m units.
For a product line aimed at driving value, not volume, this was a positive result for Samsung, explained Stanton.
“It discounted the Galaxy S8 in several major countries in Q3, which helped ease inventory build-up from the previous quarter. In total, it shipped 10.3m devices from its Galaxy S8 range in Q3.
“But Samsung’s golden period of having a differentiated product has now ended. Apple, Google, Huawei and others have all introduced new smartphones with 18:9 displays and thin bezels. As the battleground at the high end moves toward AI and AR, Samsung is behind, and needs to catch up with competitors such as Huawei and Apple.”