Apple sold 16 million iPhone X in Q1 – far more than any other smartphone model

Research firm Strategy Analytics reckons Apple managed to shift 16 million units of its flagship smartphone last quarter, defying pessimistic reports.

At the start of this week we reported on a rumour that Apple had significantly cut order for the X with its manufacturers because it was struggling to shift what it already had. That rumour turned out to be pretty much rubbish when Apple announced solid numbers a couple of days later and SA’s estimate serve to reinforce that impression.

“We estimate the Apple iPhone X shipped 16.0 million units and captured 5 percent market share worldwide in Q1 2018,” said Juha Winter of SA. “For the second quarter running, the iPhone X remains the world’s most popular smartphone model overall, due to a blend of good design, sophisticated camera, extensive apps, and widespread retail presence for the device.

“Apple has now shifted almost 50 million iPhone X units worldwide since commercial launch in November 2017. The Apple iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus shipped 12.5 and 8.3 million units, respectively, for second and third place. The previous-generation iPhone 7 shipped a respectable 5.6 million units for fourth place. Combined together, Apple today accounts for four of the world’s six most popular smartphone models.”

You might expect the rest of the list to be occupied by the Samsung but you would be sorely mistaken. The fifth best-selling smartphone model globally was the Xiaomi Redmi 5A, which is not a bad effort considering that’s mainly direct (as opposed to operator-subsidised) sales. Let’s see if Xiaomi’s strategic alliance with Hutchison helps it climb the table further. Then, finally, comes the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus which, to be fair, hasn’t been shipping for long.

Linda Sui, Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “Xiaomi has become wildly popular across India and China,” Said SA’s Linda Sui. “Xiaomi is selling a huge volume of smartphones through online channels, with key retail partners including Flipkart and JD.”

“Samsung’s new flagships, Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, only started shipping toward the end of the first quarter, but shipments are already off to a very good start,” said SA’s Woody Oh. “We expect the S9 Plus to become the best-selling Android smartphone globally in the second quarter of 2018.”

Global Smartphone Shipments by Model (Millions of Units) Q1 ’17 Q1 ’18
1.  Apple iPhone X 0.0 16.0
2.  Apple iPhone 8 0.0 12.5
3.  Apple iPhone 8 Plus 0.0 8.3
4.  Apple iPhone 7 21.5 5.6
5.  Xiaomi Redmi 5A 0.0 5.4
6.  Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus 0.0 5.3
Rest of Total Market 332.3 292.3
Total 353.8 345.4
Global Smartphone Marketshare by Model (% of Total) Q1 ’17 Q1 ’18
1.  Apple iPhone X 0.0% 4.6%
2.  Apple iPhone 8 0.0% 3.6%
3.  Apple iPhone 8 Plus 0.0% 2.4%
4.  Apple iPhone 7 6.1% 1.6%
5.  Xiaomi Redmi 5A 0.0% 1.6%
6.  Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus 0.0% 1.5%
Rest of Total Market 93.9% 84.6%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Total Growth YoY (%) 6.2% -2.4%
Source: Strategy Analytics

 

SA is having a busy week, having published its Q1 2018 tablet shipment numbers too. Apple is doing nicely in that area too, shifting almost twice as many units as second-placed Samsung in a declining market.

“Leading vendors are bouncing back with new hardware and value-added features such as improved stylus capabilities, AR, and digital assistants to support new use cases and double down on their appeal consumer and enterprise markets,” said SA’s Chirag Upadhyay. “Our interactions with computing devices are rapidly changing and companies like Apple, Amazon, and Huawei are staying ahead of the curve with targeted product improvements.”

SA tablets Q1 2018

Smartphone market Q1 2018: Apple is doing just fine

Amid rumours that sales of its flagship smartphone have disappointed, Apple posted yet another set of impressive numbers.

The past few weeks saw a bunch of stories all claiming to have insight into the Apple supply chain, suggesting that the flagship iPhone X hasn’t been selling in anything near the volumes Apple was hoping for. Apparently it’s too expensive and the screen is too fragile.

Well Apple’s Q1 2018 numbers pretty much contradict those rumours, with Apple shifting 52.2 million iPhones in the quarter, a 3% increase on the year-ago quarter. Apple doesn’t publish splits by model, but iPhone revenues were up were up 14% annually, indicating an increased average selling price, which seems likely to be due to the X.

“Apple iPhone shipments have grown year-on-year in three of the past 4 quarters,” said Neil Mawston of Strategy Analytics, from whom we derive much of the data in our smartphone shipment table. Apple’s ultra-premium iPhone X is proving relatively popular in some markets like China and the US, while there remains scope for additional expansion in emerging regions such as India and Africa.”

The other story of the quarter is the continued overall decline of the global smartphone market, with shipments falling by 2%, having fallen a fair bit in the previous quarter too. A lot of the reason for this will be China, which everyone seems to agree is in relatively steep decline, but it looks like replacement cycles are lengthening in developed markets too.

Q1 2018 smartphone table


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The Apple iPhone X might be struggling

A recent report claims demand for Apple’s flagship smartphone ironically flagged in the first quarter of 2018.

Fast Company says it knows some people with inside knowledge of the Apple supply chain and they told it Apple is cutting its orders of the iPhone X from its manufacturers because it’s struggling to move the stock it already has. Apparently Apple has only ordered 8 million units for Q2 2018, which is way less than you would expect from a company that would expect to ship over 40 million units of all its phones in that quarter.

As you can see from our tracker table below, Apple always has its biggest quarter in Q4 as its choreographs the launch of its new iPhone with the holiday season. Apple shifted 77 million total smartphones in Q4 and, while it doesn’t break down its shipments by model, it’s generally assumed that a good chunk of those were Xs, and Canalys had an educated guess at 29 million – around a third.

 

Smartphone shipments Q4 2017

The moment of truth will be upon us soon, as Apple will report its earnings – and iPhone shipments – tomorrow evening. If shipments are well below 51 million (17 million Xs) then that would imply this rumour has some legs and the X has been a disappointment, at least in terms of volume. On the other hand Apple still makes obscene profits, so perhaps volume was never the aim in the first place.

According to Bloomberg analysts are a bit concerned by these rumours and Apple’s shares have fallen a few percent in the last week, presumably as a result of all this. An additional rumour doing the rounds is that Apple will launch a version of the X with a cheaper screen to bring the cost down, having apparently hit a ceiling for what many are prepared to spend with the X.

As the iPhone X goes on sale, demand for the iPhone 8 seems weak

Today’s the day you can put in your pre-order for the shiny new iPhone X and, despite the lofty price point, this seems to be the moment most Apple loyalists have been waiting for.

The iPhone X is supposed to be available from 3 November – next week – but already a visit to the UK Apple store reveals that we would have to wait at least 5-6 weeks for it to turn up if we bought it today. That’s getting dangerously close to Christmas.

It’s never easy to read between the lines when it comes to Apple supply constraints. On one hand its new phones are, of course, immensely popular, so such reports appear superficially plausible. However it’s not like this is a new phenomenon and Apple CEO Tim Cook is supposed to be a supply chain genius, so surely it can’t be too difficult to anticipate demand and just make sure you order enough from the manufacturers.

There have been reports that certain components unique to the X are in short supply but you’d think Apple has been doing everything in its power to resolve that. And then there’s always the suspicion that Apple has a marketing interest in creating the impression of overwhelming demand exceeding even its most wildly optimistic expectations.

What does seem likely, however, is that most people looking to buy an iPhone in Q4 are willing to wait for an X. Market trackers CIRP recently came up with some numbers that imply the iPhone 8 and 8+ only accounted for 16% of total US iPhone sales in Q3. This compares unfavourably to last year when the 7 and 7+ accounted for 43% of sales, implying that the majority are waiting for the X.

“It seems when Apple announced the forthcoming iPhone X, it changed the market dynamic, and probably depressed demand for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus,” said Mike Levin of CIRP. “Both the newly reduced-price iPhone 7 and 7 Plus and older iPhone models continue to see strong demand. …So, rather than waiting for and buying the iPhone 8, it looks like buyers in this quarter either bought existing models, or decided to wait for iPhone X, later in the year.”

You can see the rather cluttered CIRP chart, showing US iPhone sales share by model over the past four years, below. The key bits are the two right hand segments at the end of each bar, which signify the most recent launches. As you can see they account for a much smaller proportion this year than in previous years.

CIRP iPhone chart

It seems likely that Apple will end up shifting a ton of iPhone Xs, which should ensure its profits reach new levels of obscenity. But if this supply problem continues, and people don’t get their lovely new shiny thing until the new year, it could still turn into a bit of a Pyrrhic victory for the gadget giant.

Samsung tries to crash the iPhone X party

On the day of Apple’s big smartphone event Samsung managed to get a bit of coverage of its own, which is no small feat.

Samsung can only dream of having every aspect of its product launches exhaustively covered in the way Apple’s are. Gadget sites typically manage 20+ stories from a single launch event as covetous consumers crave every tiny morsel of detail about the new shiny things. Samsung events get a fair bit of coverage but nowhere near as breathless and detailed.

The tech world is still working out what it thinks about the new Apple launches, and you can read our perspective here. But Samsung seems to have decided to try to remind everyone that Apple isn’t the only company that can innovate.

The Associated Press reported on a Samsung press event at which Koh Dong-jin, president of the mobile business at Samsung Electronics, said his company might launch a bendable phone next year. He immediately hedged his position by saying there are still some technical details to be ironed out, inferring that if they are not resolved then the launch won’t happen.

This seems like a classic piece of counter PR. Samsung has been playing around with flexible screens for years and, since there is still no hard date commitment, it could have made this announcement at any time.

The main premise of the event, it seems, was to announce the Galaxy Note 8 to the Korean market and Samsung sought to pour further water on Apple fever by going on about how well the Note 8 is doing. This is in many ways Samsung’s equivalent of the iPhone X and, it should be noted, isn’t a whole lot cheaper.

The big news, as also reported by the FT, is that demand for the Note 8 is exceeding expectations. You could be forgiven for observing that expectations might have been on the low side when you consider that its predecessor had a tendency to spontaneously combust, which had a somewhat detrimental effect on demand.

In fact Samsung showed some corporate balls in sticking with the Note brand at all, so tarnished was it 11 months ago, but it seems gadget-lovers’ memories are short and all has been forgiven. Having said that the devices won’t find their way into the wild until the end of this week and Samsung execs must be crossing everything that none of them go up in smoke.

But this isn’t about surpassing meagre expectations. The first five days of pre-orders for the Note 8 have apparently registered 2.5-times the sales volume of the Note 7. The message from Samsung is clear: bring it on Apple.

Apple struggles to justify grand price point for the iPhone X

Apple has finally unveiled the extensively leaked iPhone X ultra-premium smartphone but the $1,000 price point risks alienating many loyalists.

Among the iPhone X headline features are a 5.8-inch ‘super retina’ display, which covers almost the entire front face of the device and which Apple somewhat snottily describes as ‘the first OLED panel that rises to the standards of iPhone.’ There’s a new SoC – the six-core A11 Bionic chip that Apple claims is 70% faster than the previous one and there’s ‘3D facial recognition’ which is supposed to be better than the current alternatives.

“For more than a decade, our intention has been to create an iPhone that is all display,” said Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer. “The iPhone X is the realisation of that vision. With the introduction of iPhone ten years ago, we revolutionised the mobile phone with Multi-Touch. iPhone X marks a new era for iPhone — one in which the device disappears into the experience.”

“iPhone X is the future of the smartphone,” said said Philip Schiller, Apple’s head of marketing. “It is packed with incredible new technologies, like the innovative TrueDepth camera system, beautiful Super Retina display and super-fast A11 Bionic Chip with neural engine. iPhone X enables fluid new user experiences — from unlocking your iPhone with Face ID, to playing immersive AR games, to sharing Animoji in Messages — it is the beginning of the next ten years for iPhone.”

iphonex_animoji_poo

As you’ve probably worked out for yourself the iPhone X naming is derived from the roman numeral for ten – signifying the tin anniversary of the exalted gadget. Apple clearly felt the need to make some kind of symbolic gesture and accordingly reserved most of its headline new features for the X, to the detriment of the iPhone 8 and 8 plus, which were launched at the same time.

But at what cost? The X starts at $/£1,000 while the 4.7-inch 8, which doesn’t have the new super-duper display and facial recognition but does have the A11 chip, starts at $/£700 so Apple is charging a lot for that screen which, incidentally, is probably supplied by Samsung.

This creates a real dilemma for iPhone users. Talking to a few of them after the launch the general feeling was not only that £1,000 is too much but that the very existence of the X significantly reduces the appeal of the 8 or 8 plus as they now seem like second-rate phones in comparison. The fact that the X isn’t even available until the end of October might make buying an 8 before then feel like even more of an anti-climax.

Time will tell whether this is representative of broader market sentiment but Apple’s triumphalism has the potential to backfire significantly as loyalists opt to hang onto their existing phones for at least another year rather than either break the bank or upgrade to an iPhone 8 that doesn’t even feature many of the latest gizmos. Then again the X could be a massive success causing Apple’s $250 billion cash pile to grow faster than ever.

Geoff Blaber of CCS Insight reckons the X is more indicative of a long-game from Apple. “The iPhone X is a long-term investment by Apple that sets a template for the next generation of iPhone hardware,” he said. “We expect OLED displays and the new design to become standard iPhone features for years to come. A staggered introduction of OLED technology and the new design enables Apple to steadily ramp up scale in its supply chain and maximise profits.

“At $999, the iPhone X is priced to be a natural increment beyond the iPhone 8 Plus. The higher price of the 256GB variant adds a new ‘super-premium’ product tier beyond the existing 256GB iPhone 7 Plus, which costs $969. It creates an aspirational ‘halo’ product at the top of Apple’s growing iPhone portfolio.”

The other significant announcement from Apple was the Apple Watch 3 which, as rumoured, is the first to feature an LTE modem. Among the additional cleverness is the inclusion of an eSIM that uses the same number as the owner’s iPhone, which will presumably be quite popular with potential Apple Watch buyers.

But this doesn’t address the issue that has blighted the smartwatch category from the start: its limited utility. Until a genuinely useful new UI paradigm is created smartwatches will remain glorified fitness bands and the inevitable Apple price premium – the AW3 starts at £400 – makes a purchase even harder to justify.

“Well I don’t know about you but I just think it’s too much to have to pick your phone up from your pocket when someone calls,” said one iPhone owner when asked if they were tempted to buy an Apple Watch. “I mean, who’s got time for that in their busy modern lives? In fact, I’m going to get two and wear them both on either wrist, in case someone calls and I’m scratching my arse with my left hand at the time.”

The final announcement was a version of Apple TV that supports 4K video, which was generally viewed as a catch-up move rather than anything new. There was disappointment that Apple doesn’t seem to have gained any ground when it comes to licensing content, let alone creating its own, and TV looks set to remain a ‘hobby’ for Apple for another year. There was also a preview of an Apple wireless charging mat set to launch next year that will charge the latest devices and is unlikely to be cheap.

Apple tends to experience a spike in sales when it moves to a new form factor as opposed to just a spec upgrade. This is one of those times, so on historical precedent alone this should be a successful launch for Apple. But the $/£1,000 price point is a significant PR negative for Apple right now and the creation of a new category could diminish the others further down the stack. If Apple creates mass-market tolerance for four-figure pricing then this launch will be viewed as a success, but that’s a big if.

iPhone X and Apple Watch 3 charging