China plummeting and India soaring but Apple just can’t get a break

IDC had a stab at smartphone shipments in two of the worlds most lucrative markets, and it does not make pleasant reading for Apple.

As the Apple management team has now decided against dishing out the specifics on iPhone shipments in the quarterly statements, analysts are the closest we’re going to get for sales figures. Here, IDC is suggesting a sluggish market overall in China, with iPhone sales dropping considerably, while the Indian market is booming, but Apple can’t claim a slice of the action.

Starting with the Indian market, IDC estimates 142.3 million units were shipped across 2018, demonstrating a 14.5% year-on-year increase, though the final quarter saw a 15.1% sequential decline. This might not look as bad as it originally sounds however, as Q4 actually increased year-on-year 19.5%, suggesting the third quarter was just exceptionally positive.

“Amongst the big highlights of 2018 were the online-focused brands that drove the share of the online channel to an all-time high of 38.4% in 2018 and a whopping 42.2% in 2018Q4,” said Upasana Joshi of IDC. “This was primarily driven by several rounds of discounts by e-tailers driving affordability through various financing options, cashback offers and buyback schemes.”

The Jio effect is clearly sustainable across the country as Indian consumers appetite for the digital economy continues to grow. With the disruptive telco promising further expansion, greater digital inclusivity and additional services over the coming months, more consumers might be encouraged to upgrade to more premium devices. As Joshi notes, the premium end of the market was the fastest growing price segment, demonstrating 43.9% year-on-year growth.

What will be worrying for the iLeader is the inability to get a foothold in the market and capture the attention of Indian consumers. India is traditionally a market driven by low-end devices, however the encouraging growth of handsets priced north of $500 should offer some traction for Apple.

Xiaomi led the market, having recently overtaken Samsung, with 28.9% of total shipments, a healthy 58.6% increase from 2017. Samsung collected 24.7% of Indian devices sales, while Vivo had 10%, Oppo 7.2% and Transsion with 4.5% completes the top five vendors. The remaining 27% of shipments were shared through multiple vendors, Apple included, though the bundled peloton chasing the leading five saw total sales drop by 10.7% year-on-year.

With sales across the world seemingly declining for Apple, the booming Indian market is one it can ill-afford to miss out on. Last year, it announced it was moving manufacturing into the country, with partner Foxconn aiming to be up and running in early 2019, while there are also plans to expand the retail footprint. The team reportedly plan to open three massive stores in both Delhi and Mumbai, owing to the success of retail operations elsewhere around the world.

While India might be a headache due to the iLife indifference of the locals, China is turning into a full-blow migraine for completely separate reasons.

IDC estimate Apple’s smartphone shipments have declined by 19.9% in China, while the home favourite Huawei saw its own shipments grow by 23%. Apple’s loss is Huawei’s gain, though it does appear the iChief is losing its prestige badge in the market.

These figures are of course estimates, as Apple has decided against telling anyone about specific shipment numbers, though the revenues over the last quarter give a decent idea. During the last quarterly results, revenues for the Greater China region declined by roughly 26% from $17.9 billion to $13.1 billion. In years gone, Apple used to be able to simply release a new colour variant of flagships and China consumers would be queuing out the door, but the bonanza is over for the moment.

The big question is why? Of course, there will be a preference from some for local brands, and there will of course be the cash-conscious. But ultimately you have to wonder whether Apple is living up to the brand promise which it spend so many years cultivating; where is the innovation?

Over the last decade, Apple has crafted a brand which is built on the principles of innovation and technological supremacy. Steve Jobs was the figurehead of this image, and many Apple enthusiasts were prepared to pay the premium on devices because of this identity. However, in recent years, Apple has done little to differentiate its devices and justify the pricing premium which is placed on products. Of course, this is not just Apple, innovation has stuttered across the segment, but gone is the assumption Apple immune to market trends.

With revenues declining across the international markets, and Apple set to sit out the initial 5G devices euphoria over the next couple of months, 2019 is starting to look like a very uncomfortable year for Apple.

Most European CSPs expect more enterprise revenue opportunities from 5G

A new survey conducted by IDC, commissioned by Amdocs, has found that almost 80% of European CSPs anticipate increased enterprise revenue opportunities from 5G.

This was the headline datapoint from a survey in which IDC spoke to a bunch of senior management at CSPs from around the world. Another notable finding was that a third of all operators plan to offer enterprise 5G services in 2019 and that will increase to 84% of them in 2020.

“Operators of 5G networks can support mission-critical enterprise communications, with performance backed by service-level agreements,” said John Delaney, Associate VP of Mobility Research at IDC. “Our research shows that mobile operators are optimistic about the potential for 5G to support an expansion of their role in the enterprise market.”

“The survey clearly demonstrates that operators see 5G as a means to restore value around core connectivity services for business customers.” said Matthieu Loreille, VP Head of Consumer, Enterprise and Technology Marketing at Amdocs. “5G technologies such as network slicing will allow them to tailor the performance, security level and characteristics appropriate to each business, opening up differentiating monetization opportunities.

“Furthermore, by leveraging additional technologies such as artificial intelligence, edge computing and hybrid cloud, operators will be strongly positioned to support enterprises in their digital transformation journey. Effectively, this enables them to shift connectivity to the heart of their solutions with meaningful value-added services on top such as cybersecurity, cloud migration, hybrid cloud operations and many more.”

Other datapoints include 72% of European operators reckon they’ll be first to market with 5G enterprise services and 65% of them said their enterprise customers have already expressed an interest. Obviously Amdocs thinks these findings should compel operators to invest loads more in software and services, which it happens to provide.

India defies global trends as smartphone shipments grow 20%

IDC has released its quarterly estimates of smartphone shipments for India, claiming 33.5 million units were sold across the period, a year-on-year increase of 20%.

While this is great news for Indian telcos and smartphone manufactures, capitalising on the country’s late charge towards the digital economy, global trends are not as positive. Broader estimates from IDC put global smartphone shipments down 1.8% over the course of the second quarter, though in shipping 95 million devices, the three month period was a positive one for Huawei.

“Huawei has had a stellar quarter worldwide moving into the second position, toppling Apple,” said Upasana Joshi of IDC. “In India, with a refreshed focus it has been able to grow its share in the online space in the last two quarters, on the back of several new launches across price segments. IDC believes Huawei should be seen as a serious long-term player in India market with all the ingredients to challenge Xiaomi and Samsung.”

As the wealthier markets worldwide are no-longer looking as glorious for the smartphone manufacturers, with many hitting a glass ceiling in terms of smartphone penetration to population, India is a very attractive proposition. The young, increasingly affluent, population are ready to be sold to. Largely thanks to the Reliance Jio disruption, the digital revolution is fast taking over the country with data consumption rising healthily quarter-on-quarter. Jio consumers use on average 10.6 GB of data per month, including 15.4 hours of video. The appetite for the digital economy and more premium devices usually go hand-in-hand.

While the majority of devices are still low- to medium-end, shipments of high-end devices (those worth more than $500) doubled year-on-year, with the Samsung Galaxy S9 series and OnePlus 6 being crowned winners. OnePlus surpassed Apple to take second place in the premium market share rankings. That said, consumers are taking advantage of financing schemes in the offline channels to snap up deals, average selling price decreased from $167 to $157 for the quarter, while demand for feature phones continues to be strong, growing 29% year-on-year.

In terms of capitalising on the opportunity right now, Xiaomi took top spot for shipments over the three months, increasing its shipments by 107% year-on-year and capturing 29.7% of total market share. Samsung captured 23.9% of shipments, though with Huawei continuing to make solid progress worldwide it might not be too long before it starts making its mark on the India market.

AR and VR headsets nosedive in Q1

Shipments of augmented and virtual reality headsets have plummeted year-on-year across the first quarter, according to statistics from IDC, as telcos unbundle the kit from premium contracts and handsets.

Despite the poor performance in the first quarter, down 30.5% year-on-year, totalling 1.2 million units, IDC does forecast the segment to return to growth for the remainder of 2018 as more vendors target the commercial AR and VR markets and low-cost standalone VR headsets such as the Oculus Go make their way into stores. The team estimate sales will increase to 8.9 million units in 2018, up 6%, with growth continuing upwards to 65.9 million by 2022.

“On the VR front, devices such as the Oculus Go seem promising not because Facebook has solved all the issues surrounding VR, but rather because they are helping to set customer expectations for VR headsets in the future,” said Jitesh Ubrani of IDC. “Looking ahead, consumers can expect easier-to-use devices at lower price points. Combine that with a growing line-up of content from game makers, Hollywood studios, and even vocational training institutions, and we see a brighter future for the adoption of virtual reality.”

Although bundling has become unpopular for the telcos, it is worth noting the importance of such sales models. Smartphone penetration was incredibly rapid in comparison to other technological breakthroughs, partly because consumers have more disposable income, but also bundling made the process of purchasing a device simpler and more cost effective. It normalised the product, before consumers become more savvy shoppers, exploring data only tariffs and separate purchases of devices. Telcos might not like bundling devices into contracts, but it is a very important factor in the progression of the data and digital economy, and aiding the market penetration of new devices.

Augmented reality is going to be the poster child of the segment for the immediate future, it is far more accessible, though it shouldn’t be too long before virtual reality starts making waves. IDC forecasts virtual reality headsets to grow from 8.1 million in 2018 to 39.2 million by the end of 2022, believing the commercial market to be equally important and predicts it will grow from 24% of VR headset shipments in 2018 to 44.6% by 2022.

AR and VR has certainly been making progress over the last 12 months, admittedly quite slowly, hopefully Q1 is simply a blip in the progress.

Canalys reckons Apple Watch shipments exploded in Q4 2017

Estimates from research firm Canalys put the number of Apple Watches shipped in Q4 2017 at 8 million, which is apparently more than the entire Swiss watch industry.

Apple doesn’t break out its Apple Watch shipments publicly, so these are only estimates, but probably good ones as that’s Canalys’ day job. Furthermore there seems to be some consensus with IDC tweeting similar vibes ahead of publishing its hard estimates. Either way it looks like the latest version of the Watch is gaining some momentum.

“The cellular version of the Apple Watch was in strong demand in the US, Japan and Australia, where all major operators stocked it in time for the holiday season,” said Vincent Thielke of Canalys. “But limited operator selection in the UK, Germany and France influenced consumer purchase decisions, and stifled the growth potential of the connected Apple Watch. Moving into new markets, such as Singapore and Hong Kong in Q1 2018, just in time for Chinese New Year, is a good move.”

Business Insider had a look at the claim made in the IDC tweet about the Swiss watch industry and its official source of data, which seems to indicate Q4 2017 exports of Swiss watches in the region of 6-7 million. There are, of course, other sources of conventional watches but Apple does seem to be aiming more towards the luxury end.

What to read into this trend, however, is far from clear. It’s not known to what extent the most recent shipments were influenced by operator bundling, nor how much more seasonal smart watch sales are than conventional ones. Furthermore Swiss brands such as Rolex tend to be very expensive and so should be expected to sell in lower volumes.

The Canalys chart for the full year is below, which implies 100% of the Apple Watches shipped in Q4 were the new series. It’s interesting to note some traction for the modem-enabled ones since it’s unlikely many users will leave the house without their phone anyway, unless they’re going for a run.

Canalys 2017 Apple Watch