Let’s take a brief journey back through time. In 2012, amid predictions that Apple would sell up to ten million copies of the iPhone 5, they announced that a “mere” five million were sold. Now in passing, it should be pointed out that Apple never made any presales predictions, but they did state that they could have sold more if enough stock were available. Regardless, what should have been a successful launch, with record sales of a smartphone that exceeded all competitors, ended up being perceived as a failure.
Of course, the actual failure involved media analysts who were clearly making things up, coming up with outrageous predictions that seemed to have no factual basis whatever. But Apple took the brunt of the blame for failing to deliver on someone else’s inflated estimates.
I suppose you can put the start of Apple’s latest stock market roller coaster ride on the launch of the iPhone 5. From there, it was all about facts be damned, so long as the information cast an unfavorable light on Apple. So we had stories of tepid demand for the iPhone 5, along with claims from the supply chain that Apple had cut back on orders from this, that, or another supplier.
Sure, Tim Cook was aware of those claims, and he calmly stated, at a quarterly conference call with financial analysts, that you cannot take one metric from the supply chain and assume it reflects Apple’s actual sales performance. But few listened.
When Samsung boasted of selling 10 million Galaxy S4’s in 28 days, and remember Apple sold five million in just three days, the achievement was regarded as a big deal. It was evidence that Apple was suffering and that they were foolish to concentrate on selling high-end gear. Think of the tens of millions of sales they are leaving on the table without a cheap iPhone in the inventory.
Apple’s answer to those on a budget has been to sell older models, but that’s as far as they’ve gone. With the announcement of a new iPhone lineup on September 10, Apple decided it was better to push two models rather than one. Sure, the iPhone 5c is basically a warmed over iPhone 5 with a few modest changes, such as a beefier battery, and a colorful polycarbonate case. Some called it an iPod-style approach, but it meant that people who didn’t need the latest and greatest could still buy a current and somewhat cheaper iPhone.
But how many would Apple sell and did they build enough copies of the iPhone 5s to satisfy demand?
Industry analysts were mostly in the five million to eight million unit range, and some felt that the iPhone 5c would get the larger proportion of sales. But just as they were dead wrong about flaccid iPhone 5 sales, they didn’t grok what was really happening with all those people snaking around Apple Stores on iPhone launch day.
After all the dire predictions, and the complaints that the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s represented little in the way of change over the original iPhone 5 — the numbers were in. Apple announced that over nine million were sold the very first weekend; there was no official breakdown among the two models. An independent estimate suggests over three of the iPhone 5s were sold for every iPhone 5c, which explains the sudden stockout. Surprisingly, some 200 million had supposedly upgraded to iOS 7, which is nothing short of a record in the tech industry and then some.
Apple also filed an 8-K document with the S.E.C. to revise guidance for the current quarter, which ends on Saturday, indicating it would fall at the high end of their projected range of $34 to $37 billion. Obviously, that disclosure was deliberate, a shot across the bow of the ship filled with naysayers.
Now the reviews of the two iPhones are coming in droves. I’ve already given you some of my initial feelings about the iPhone 5c, and will have something to say about the iPhone 5s in a few days. But I don’t want to bore you. The long and short of it is that the negatives about both largely cover perceived missing features, at least compared to Android, or the smaller displays.
Even before testing Touch ID, some were dismissive. What if your fingers are wet or greasy? Can you just cut off someone’s finger and have it work, as is done on those TV shows? Well, it seems that one hacking organization claimed success in a sort of elaborate fashion. At the end of the day, however, fingerprints are far more secure than four-digit passcodes. If you want a 100% solution, where do you look? Certainly not Samsung.
Indeed, after living with Samsung smartphones for seven months, an iPhone seems almost tiny by comparison, until you put one in your pocket. You soon understand that getting a larger display has significant tradeoffs, and might present more trouble than you expect. Every time the screen totally washed out even in dim sunlight on a Samsung, I longed for the return of an iPhone.
Meantime, Apple’s stock price took a fairly big jump on a day when the market, overall, was down. But that doesn’t necessarily signal a trend. In another few days, they’ll be going after Apple yet again. Next target, the iPad, and whether Apple can deliver a credible refresh.