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  • Do We Really Need Surveys Such as This?

    March 13th, 2018

    If you follow the political byplay, you’ll find polls and more polls among news sites. Some cover the popularity of a politician or a candidate. Who’s going to win the next election? How’s the President doing? You’ll find plenty of guesses within a margin of error. When polls are wrong, even if they are within that error rate, they are attacked as being faulty.

    Are the polls biased, favorable to one side or another?

    Or is it worth the bother? Maybe we’ll too much into instant gratification since polling is not a perfect science. Perhaps it’s more of an art.

    But when it comes to anything Apple, you can bet there will be polls purporting to gauge interest and satisfaction, or lack thereof, in a product. This is nothing unusual, and is to  be expected. There are also surveys of future purchase plans, and that’s where the results are pretty murky.

    After all, the survey team will ask potential buyers what they plan to do weeks or months from now, as if many of the respondents can really give an accurate answer, even if it’s an honest one. This is particularly true for products that do not exist yet, and we only have vague speculation about the next generations of iPhones, iPads and Macs, not to mention the Apple Watch, Apple TV and the HomePod.

    So imagine an industry analyst firm contacting an iPhone user and asking about their upgrade plans in ignorance of what they will be able to buy this fall. Sure, probably another iPhone because most iPhone owners will buy another when the time is right. But whether they will actually follow through on those plans may just depend on what Apple plans to release, the early chatter and reviews.

    The iPhone X was in the news for well over a year before it arrived. For months it was referred to as the iPhone 8 until Apple’s real plans were revealed. All the fear-mongering about Face ID evidently wasn’t sufficient to depress demand to any recognizable degree, and it sold very well. Well, except in the eyes of those uninformed pundits and analysts who ignored Apple’s financials to claim it didn’t.

    That said, there is a published report suggesting that a normal number of iPhone owners are considering upgrading this year, which means, roughly speaking, it’s probably not much of a story. And that’s even before you consider its limitations, that people are stating plans about buying unannounced products.

    The survey firm, Loup Ventures, surveyed 511 people, of which 226 owned iPhones. Of these, 22% are planning to upgrade this fall ignorant of what might be coming from Apple, although there is talk of two entries in the iPhone X lineup, and an unnamed “affordable” model with a big edge-to-edge LCD screen.

    Last year, it was reported that 23% planned to upgrade, in a climate where the iPhone X was a major subject of speculation. But that’s an insignificant difference, since it falls well within the usual margin of error. Two years previously, the number was 15%, but that came at a time when the rumor sites and Apple critics were telling iPhone users that they should ignore the iPhone 7 cycle and wait for the following year.

    That explains those results, and this year’s pretty much indicate that customers expect, at this stage, to see new models similar to the ones that were released last year.

    In commenting on the survey, such as it is, industry analyst Gene Munster announced that, “We expect investors will increasingly view the iPhone hardware business as a subscription business, given the upgrade patterns are becoming more predictable.This is also consistent with current Street expectations of 4 percent iPhone unit growth in FY18 and 2 percent in FY19.”

    What he is basically saying here is that people will tend to upgrade on a regular basis. Certainly much of this is based on those lease/purchase deals from carriers in which you acquire a smartphone, and, based on the terms, turn it in and upgrade it to the newest model on a regular basis, usually from 12 to 18 months. That’s equivalent to a subscription since you never actually own the device.

    Munster also suggests that the promise of a 6.5-inch iPhone X Plus might improve the upgrade numbers, since it will signify an all-new model, even if the changes, other than display size, are normal for an annual refresh. It would probably mean a faster processor, presumed to be the A12, improved camera parts, and other enhanced features. Some of the speculation suggests that Apple is working to reduce the height of the controversial notch, with the expectation of eliminating it as soon as engineering can devise a workable solution to embed the camera and Face ID parts “invisibly” beneath the OLED display.

    So what have we learned by this survey?

    That, based on only a smattering of information, iPhone upgrades are expected to follow the usual pattern. Once we’re closer to more solid rumors about the new products, surveys are apt to become more accurate.

    So was it all worth the bother?

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