Speculation About Speculation About iPhone Sales

February 28th, 2018

After totally losing it when iPhone X sales turned out to be spectacular, based on Apple’s financials, some critics just kept the fake news going, finding little tidbits here and there to buttress their false claims. So there was the implication that iPhone X supplies caught up with demand within weeks not because Apple is efficient and understands the supply chain, but that customers weren’t willing to pay $999 and up for a smartphone.

Did dealers suddenly find themselves with lots of unsold stock? Doesn’t seem so, but didn’t supply chain orders decrease ahead of the March quarter? What could that possibly mean — well except that sales are normally lower after a holiday quarter for Apple. This supply chain nonsense has persisted for several years, and has been shown to be total nonsense beyond normal seasonal trends.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has lectured industry analysts that you cannot make guesses about supply and demand of any Apple gadget based on some scattered metrics from the supply chain.

Sure, Cook will always put positive spins in less-than-favorable news, which is to be expected, but he has been shown to be correct too, so he has to be taken seriously.

Now it’s also true that Apple expects iPhone sales to grow in double digits this quarter, even though total guidance is lower than Wall Street expected. But that doesn’t mean they were right and Apple isn’t doing as well as it should. Just as analysts, so called, may lowball Apple revenue, the reverse may be true as well. Is that supposed to be Apple’s fault?

So what about the 2018 iPhones? Will there be significant changes this fall? What about an updated iPhone SE with a slightly larger display and more powerful parts? An iPhone SE II?

The chatter about the iPhone X has also been somewhat confused. You expect it’ll be replaced by something this fall. One piece of speculation has it that the existing model will be discontinued, not priced down and kept on. Perhaps. But Apple has tended to just keep older models available over the years to give customers more affordable alternatives.

What about the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus? Will they be one-offs, discounted, or replaced by an iPhone 9 family?

The rumors appear to be coalescing on three new models. There will be an iPhone X Plus scaled up with a 6.5-inch display. Does that mean a sale price of $1,099, or will the regular iPhone X refresh be $100 cheaper, with the larger model occupying the $999 price point. At the same time, it seems the Samsung Galaxy S9 and its “+” version are going to be more expensive than last year.

The third iPhone will reportedly stick with LCD, but will feature a similar design to the iPhone X, with a 6.1-inch edge-to-edge display and Face ID. All will use A12 processors and other more powerful parts, perhaps including 5G broadband support. It also means the notch is here to stay unless a way is found to embed Face ID beneath an OLED display.

If true, it’ll still represent perhaps the largest changes to the iPhone lineup in years.

Obviously it’s early in the game. We’ll know a whole lot more in the weeks to come, and these guesses may end up being very different when the products are finalized. But if true or close to being true, it would mean that Apple is confident in the new direction of the product heralded by the iPhone X. If it was so unsuccessful as some of the chronic Apple critics suggest, why would the key design and product features be kept on and not replaced with something now, or reverting to something previously done?

As you might imagine, Apple doesn’t just throw products together, which was a silly claim used to explain the switchover from Touch ID to Face ID on the iPhone X. Don’t forget that Apple bought PrimeSense, whose 3D technology was useful in developing the TrueDepth camera, in 2013. The iPhone X arrived four years later, so it’s clear that Apple took its time to coalesce different technologies to perfect a viable facial recognition system.

Very likely other smartphone makers are using Face ID as the guidepost to building similar capabilities. But not yet! The Samsung Galaxy S9 has the promise if better biometrics, but nothing that appears to be in the league of Face ID.

I’m not going to provide much in the way of comments about the new Samsungs until they are actually tested by independent reviewers. But I suppose I should mention tests from Anandtech, in which the new Galaxy handsets scored well below current iPhones, and sometimes below the iPhone 7.

Clearly Samsung can build chips with more powerful specs, but those specs evidently fail to perform much better. Indeed I noticed one test in which a Samsung Galaxy S9+ scored below one version of the Galaxy s8.

But since the tests were run on a demo version displayed at a trade show, I’ll await more complete results with shipping models.

Meantime, if Apple does anything close to what’s been speculated so far, the future of the iPhone will continue to be extremely positive.

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