In yesterday’s column, I cited stats that indicated that the iPhone 7 was surprisingly successful in the June quarter, with sales slightly above last year, and ahead of every other smartphone on the planet. These are the kinds of numbers that continue to cement Apple’s position in the market.
So even though Android rules the roost as far as the total number of units sold, Apple has it all over Samsung and other companies when it comes to premium gear.
These sales come despite the torrent of speculation about an unannounced model that is generally referred to as the iPhone 8. There’s been talk about an edge-to-edge OLED display, 3D facial recognition, and other goodies. It conveys the impression that buying the current models makes no sense, since the next one will be so much better. Aside from the move to larger displays, starting with the iPhone 6 series, it would represent the biggest change in years. If true, of course.
The other question mark about the iPhone 7 was Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jack. Some tech pundits are still ranting about it. One article suggested you’ll spend hundreds of dollars stocking up on dongles to serve your Apple gear, but of course that’s nonsense. The iPhone 7 comes with an adapter, so you can still use regular wired earphones, including the ones supplied, without suffering much inconvenience. Replacement adapters are $9.
The only real problem occurs if you choose to listen and charge the unit at the same time, in which case you must buy a more expensive adapter. But Apple is forward looking in removing legacy ports. No doubt the product planners expect most people to switch to wireless before long, and not an expensive Bluetooth set, such as AirPods, but something that costs about the same as current wired models.
It may even be that a future iPhone will come with wireless ear buds, and then the complaints may be stilled. But Apple is attacked whenever ports are changed or removed, and it’s understandable there will be some inconvenience for a while as people have to buy adapters.
Did that decision hurt iPhone 7 sales? It’s hard to say. Did the speculation about the next model hurt? Likely, because that’s what Tim Cook suggested in commenting about slightly lower sales for the March quarter. You’d only expect it to be worse now as we get closer to the next iPhone media event, which will likely happen in September as usual.
The critics also savage Apple about the alleged failure of the Apple Watch. But let’s put things in perspective.
Sales of the iPhone from mid-2007 through 2009 totaled 33.73 million, far less than Apple sells in a single quarter nowadays. Estimated sales for the Apple Watch from the spring of 2015 through the June quarter are in the 30-31.5 million range. The iPhone was regarded as a success early on. The Apple Watch continues to be regarded as an underachiever.
True, iPad sales grew much faster, until they plateaued and began to drop. Indeed, June quarter sales represented the first time sales of Apple’s tablet grew since 2014.
In any case, Apple Watch sales, which continue to rise relatively quickly according to Apple, may not hreachit iPhone levels as quickly or at all. But that doesn’t make it unsuccessful.
Compare it to a product that is thought to be successful, the Amazon Echo. Some weeks back, I saw an estimate that Amazon sold 14 million units from its 2014 launch to this past spring. This is the sort of disconnect that often applies to Apple.
Indeed, the Microsoft Surface is often regarded as a successful high-end PC line. Macs are frequently compared, unfavorably. But Surface sales have remained flat for a while, until they dropped 26% in a recent quarter. Even then, revenue was a fraction of the Mac’s, so how do you regard Microsoft’s PCs as successful?
Even worse, it does appear that the Surface is not getting a terribly good reputation for reliability. All right, the recent Consumer Reports claim, that 25% of the units sold in a two-eyer period developed problems, has questionable methodology. Aside from depending on untrained readers to correctly check the boxes on questionnaires, the sampling size may not even be sufficient to get a reasonably credible result.
But online reports also tell a tale that isn’t terribly promising for Surface reliability. Even such Windows fans as blogger Paul Thurrott wrote about the complaints, along with a Microsoft memo that admitted such problems.
Now perhaps Microsoft will find ways to improve Surface reliability and get its reputation back. Maybe they can demonstrate flaws in CR’s reliability tests — well aside from the obvious ones — and restore a Recommended rating.
What it all goes to show, however, is that Apple is treated differently from other tech companies. Products that are successful by any conventional measure are deemed failures, and Apple’s design decisions are often found to be wrong even if they prove successful in the end.
I could mention the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, but it, too, has been a success.
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