Apple's New Phones Notch Modest Start -- WSJ

12/25/17 02:47 AM EST
By Tripp Mickle 

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (December 23, 2017).

Apple Inc. investors have been betting that the pricey new iPhone X will reignite growth for the company's most important product line.

But estimates from two market-research firms indicate customers are buying the X and a pair of other new offerings at about the same rate as they did with new models in the past two years -- which fell short of the iPhone's 2015 peak.

The iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus combined for 69% of U.S. iPhone sales for the month ended Dec. 3., with the remainder going to older models, according to a survey of 300 iPhone buyers by technology-analysis firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.

By comparison, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus accounted for 73% of all iPhones sold in their first month in 2016, and the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus accounted for 71% in their first month in 2015, the firm's prior surveys show. Sales of those devices proved to be lackluster. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus -- which were big hits -- accounted for 91% of iPhone sales in their first month in 2014.

The survey offers an early glimpse into the sales performance of the most important new iPhone in years. Apple, which bills the iPhone X as the future of the smartphone, gave it a sleek new design with an edge-to-edge display and a three-dimensional camera system that uses facial recognition to unlock the device. It also carries a starting price of $999, half again the price of previous models. Those factors fueled investor hopes for strong iPhone X sales, helping propel Apple's stock over the past year.

The iPhone X, which hit stores on Nov. 3, accounted for an estimated 30% of iPhone sales in its first month as customers opted for lower-priced models or couldn't find it in stock, according to Mike Levin, co-founder of Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. Apple struggled with supply constraints for the iPhone X that initially delayed shipment times by four to six weeks; the device now ships within a day in the U.S.

"It's a little disappointing given the hype," Mr. Levin said. Sales of the device also suffered, he said, because it was offered alongside seven less-expensive iPhone models, compared with five models last year when the company's flagship device started at $649.

Apple declined to comment. It is expected to give the first numbers on iPhone X sales early next year when it reports financial results for the current quarter, which it has predicted will deliver record-high revenue.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus drove a 52% surge in iPhone revenue in Apple's fiscal 2015. Sales dropped 12% the following year, then edged up 3.4% in the fiscal year that ended this past September.

The iPhone X's innovations haven't resonated with some longtime iPhone customers. Ifé Meedolson, a 27-year-old financial analyst in London, bought one and returned it after a week, in part because he had trouble with the facial-recognition system.

"I just felt very underwhelmed," said Mr. Meedolson, an Apple loyalist who owns an iPad Pro, two MacBooks, an iMac and iPhone 7.

Others, like Angel Lovera in Bakersfield, Calif., have embraced the new design. The 22-year-old likes that the display makes photos more vibrant and shows more website content than his iPhone 6s Plus.

"I've held a friend's iPhone 8 and been like, 'Oh my God. Where's the rest of your screen?' " Mr. Lovera said.

As of early December, the iPhone X accounted for 4% of all iPhone models in use globally, while the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus accounted for 6.3%, estimates Localytics, which analyzes apps across 2.7 billion devices and can detect which models are being used. The combined share of 10.3% is less than the 12.5% the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus claimed at the same point in 2016.

Localytics co-founder Raj Aggarwal said the iPhone X performed better than he expected given its premium price. "It's an awesome start, and you haven't hit Christmas yet," he said.

Consumer interest in the iPhone X remains high in China, which accounts for a fifth of Apple's revenue, analysts say. An RBC Capital Markets survey in early December found 62% of 646 Chinese respondents were interested in buying the iPhone X, more than double the interest level it found among 4,000-plus U.S. respondents.

JL Warren Capital, a market-research firm focused on China, expects the region to account for a quarter of the 30 million iPhone X units Apple is expected to ship in the quarter that ends this month. It estimates combined shipments of all three new models will total 51 million, down slightly from the 55.2 million iPhone 7 and 7 Plus units shipped during the same period last year.

Write to Tripp Mickle at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 25, 2017 02:47 ET (07:47 GMT)

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