More Evidence of Growing iPhone Sales

January 17th, 2018

So here’s where it stands: During the December quarter, there were two diametrically opposed versions of iPhone X sales. One was that it did really well, the other not so well, maybe even terrible. But the unfavorable spin was clouded with the usual stuff about Apple cutting back on orders from the supply chain at the end of a year. What the people who spread such stories forget is that March sales are normally lower for Apple, so components will be ordered in smaller quantities. It’s only logical.

Unfortunately, such reports are not uncommon. It’s meant to convey the illusion that an Apple product is a failure even when the company reports really good sales.

So what did happen with the iPhone X, and, in fact, the iPhone 8 family? Did they do well? Are there any indicators of success?

Well, one survey, from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, reveals that Apple’s market share compared to Android in the U.S. grew by a decent margin.

So in the December 2017 quarter, iOS accounted for 39% of mobile phone activations. That compares to 34% in the year-ago quarter. In comparison, Android’s share was 60% for the last holiday quarter, compared to 64% in the comparable quarter in 2016.

What you’ll notice here is that the percentage of activations for other mobile platforms, such as they are, fell from a tiny 2% over the year to near-insignificance. These numbers confirm the ongoing two-horse race, with no indication that any other mobile platform is poised to gain traction.

Among Android devices, Samsung’s share was 32%, LG was 13%, and the other companies fought over the remaining 15% with no indication of any breakout brands. So Samsung is still the Android leader but, as you’ll notice, the iPhone leads the overall smartphone market in this country.

In the meantime, the iPhone X is pretty much available for quick delivery as Apple has apparently caught up with demand, though things were pretty much moving in that direction just before Christmas.

In the meantime, speculation has already begun about the 2018 models. According to Ming-Chi Kuo, of KGI Securities, Apple will deliver two versions of the iPhone X this fall. One will be an update to the existing model, the other will be a “Plus” version with a 6.5-inch display.

A third new iPhone will sport the standard TFT-LCD display rather than OLED, and will thus be cheaper. It will have a 6.1-inch edge-to-edge display and Face ID, same as the iPhone X.

Now the KGI Securities analyst’s predictions are extremely credible, so this is something you should take seriously. The big question is whether there will also be straight up upgrades to the iPhone 8 family. I suspect there will be, since Apple will probably want to continue to offer more affordable gear. Consider a report that the iPhone 7 Plus, first released in 2016, was the number two smartphone in China.

I do wonder what an iPhone X Plus might cost, or will Apple be able to take advantage of improved production of OLED displays and other components and reduce the price, say by $100. That’s not uncommon for Apple, and it would mean the larger version may sell for the same $999 as the original. Otherwise, the larger model could list for $1,099 or more in its entry-level configuration.

Can you hear the complaints if that happens?

All this positive news comes at a time where Mac sales were reported to be higher worldwide according to both Gartner and IDC. These two companies often undercount those sales, so it may presage some really great numbers. Consider the previous quarter, where they reported flat or somewhat lower Mac sales, whereas Apple’s actual numbers demonstrated an over 10% increase.

Apple plans to release its quarterly numbers on Thursday, February 1st. If iPhone sales end up in the expected positive territory, it’ll all come despite the constant fear-mongering about every little feature and Apple’s alleged lack of attention to detail. Face ID was supposed to be a huge failure maybe because Samsung couldn’t deliver a secure facial recognition feature for the Galaxy S8.

No doubt Apple’s competitors are busy improving their own biometrics so facial and iris recognition features will no longer be easily defeated with simple digital photos. In contrast, it appears that you need to create an elaborate 3D photo to get past Face ID, shades of Mission Impossible.

What I’m wondering is when or if an iPhone with an OLED display will become the standard iPhone, listing for no more than today’s mainstream models. At the very least, Apple might continue to sell the original iPhone X this fall for less money.

But OLED’s lifetime may be shorter than you expect. There’s yet another new LED technology dubbed MicroLED, which is under development. Samsung has already displayed a prototype TV with that technology that it expects to sell in 2018. But it won’t come cheap, since the screen will measure 146 inches.

Apple is also looking into the new display technology, having acquired a MicroLED company, LuxVue, in 2014. So will it replace OLED in a few years? Will any tech company soon overcome the obstacles in manufacturing the flat panels, which require assembling one sub-pixel at a time?

Right now an affordable OLED iPhone would be good enough until something else takes over.

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