back to article iPhone sales shrink for 2nd year in a row as delay to next-gen mobile launch hits hard

Apple's iPhone sales shrunk for the second fiscal year in a row due to the delayed launch of its next-generation blower – the only blemish on an otherwise solid set of profit & loss accounts filed in the middle of a pandemic. At group level, Apple reported revenue of $64.698bn for its Q4 ended 26 September, up by some $658m on …

  1. DoctorNine

    O RLY?

    Apple tells people what they want, only to be surprised when they don't want it. Again? How many verses have we heard of this familiar tune?

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: O RLY?

      Sales were up year on year for the first three quarters. The fourth is when Apple usually launches a new iPhone but this year it was pushed into the quarter after that. So the story is: sales were lower for the iPhone 11-year devices in their final quarter than they were in their first.

      I'm therefore not sure your analysis really applies.

      1. Wibble

        Re: O RLY?

        Did the covid malarkey have any affect on Apple 'phone' sales?

        Would be reasonable to assume yes as many (most?) people have had 7 months out of the office and working from home where the old phones will quite happily suffice. Shops were closed, so no impulse purchases of £1k+ phones.

        It's hardly surprising that sales were down.

        1. ThomH Silver badge

          Re: O RLY?

          You're having some difficulty reading the article, I take it? Allow me: "In Q1, Q2 and Q3, iPhones grew". So, whether it would be reasonable to assume things is neither here nor there — there's no need to assume.

          iPhone sales were up during the COVID months year-on-year, and are down year-on-year only in the quarter when new models would normally have launched.

          Also as per the article, Apple's revenue was up in all quarters so far this year.

          Whatever issue you personally have, projecting it upon the world doesn't hold water.

          1. DoctorNine

            Re: O RLY?

            You're having trouble reading the title of the article, I take it? Allow me: "iPhone sales shrink for second year in a row..." Whatever personal issues you are having, which creates a need to defend your Apple fanboi status, the idea that the iPhone market expands to infinity, doesn't hold water. Many people are hitting terminal velocity on their desire for an annual iPhone upgrade. Read the comments. Downvotes just show how many noxious Apple apologists there are out there. They are legion. So umm, yeah. Whatever, Thom.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: O RLY?

              It’s not about pejorative words for people who make different choices from yours.

              I predict mid November will be a tough time to get hold of an iPhone 12 as many will have held off 11 in the expectancy that a more future proof 5G phone was in the pipeline in a few short months.

            2. ThomH Silver badge

              Re: O RLY?

              Apple had their first ever Q3 without a new iPhone. iPhone sales were lower in Q3 than in the previous Q3.

              Your theory: people must be sick of new iPhones.

              Your response to the questioning of your theory: name calling.

              Kudos for your intellectual rigour.

              1. DoctorNine

                Re: O RLY?

                "You're having some difficulty reading the article, I take it?" That was your reply to my observation. You can say whatever you want, but the name-calling started with you dear Thom. My parroting that back to you seems to have ruffled your feathers. It's humorous.

                1. ThomH Silver badge

                  Re: O RLY?

                  Actually, that was a reply to Wibble.

                  Otherwise: (i) calling people names, tick; (ii) taking amusement in the reaction to his name calling, tick. There's definitely a name for people like you.

                  1. DoctorNine

                    Re: O RLY?

                    Your reply was to Wibble. My reply was to you. And yes, you are providing huge amusement. Go on.

                    Call me your name if you want. It's a riot...

  2. Wibble

    Why "upgrade"?

    Certainly the phone functionality in a smartphone is only one part of the overall feature set. But when you've a perfectly good (smart)phone there's simply no compelling reason to upgrade. Struth, you can't wave it around in front of people to show how kewel you are - cos you can't go anywhere. Also who wants 5G when it causes Covid ;-)

    The iPhone 12, at over a grand, gives you what... 5G which isn't yet fully rolled out (and we can't travel, etc.). An 'improved' camera. Wow. Oh, it's such a great reason, I'm so excited, etc.

    Is it surprising people aren't rushing to splaff the cash at Apple. Especially as there's the mother of all recessions around the corner.

    Could also be an indicator that people are fed up with Apple's pricing?

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Why "upgrade"?

      Not sure what your post is about considering that these Apple results have nothing to do with the iPhone 12 with 5G which was not available when the quarter ended. You can only make the claim "people are fed up with Apple's pricing" in three months if it turns out they have lackluster sales of the iPhone 12. People have been trying to claim that for years, but every year Apple keeps proving that there are plenty of people who value things differently than you and don't feel Apple's pricing is out of line.

      I agree that 5G itself isn't a reason to upgrade for most, but like LTE it will take several years to reach full coverage and the "5G upgrade" cycle for smartphones will last several years as a result.

      I find it funny that last year people were claiming that Apple releasing the 11 without 5G when there were already Android phones on the market that had it would tank Apple's sales, because "who would buy a phone that's obsolete on day one?". Now people are saying that the 12 having 5G is irrelevant, because 5G will take years to roll out. There are always trolls second guessing every decision I guess, and hoping that if they keep predicting some sort of comeuppance for Apple someday they might be right.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Why "upgrade"?

        It should be said that Apple phones are not the most expensive ones out there. Samsung makes at least one that costs more then the Apple flagship.

        The annual upgrade process is a godsend for many of us. The churn allows many of us to buy slightly used iPhone at well under RSP.

        We shall have to wait until next quarter to start to understand the effect 5G is going to have on sales. Until then, the jury is out.

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Why "upgrade"?

        It has a lot to do with the iPhone 12, because people who buy on launch day were still waiting for it to launch. People who want a new phone because theirs is getting a bit old would hold out either to get the new one, or the iPhone 11 at a cheaper price.

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: Why "upgrade"?

      At this point I'm pretty sure the annual upgrades aren't to attract annual upgraders; they're so that when people replace their older models they pay for the newest rather than last year's.

      I'm holding onto my 6s until the software updates stop coming or become unusable, but supposing I were turning it is now, the question would be a starting price of £599 for last year's model or £699 for this year's. So it's more like whether the updates make the phone at least 17% better.

      Given that my 6s is already five years old that's almost as simple as asking whether I expect the model that is one year newer to be supported for one year longer. That being a safe bet, I'll probably be an easy upsell, probably (?) next year.

      Subject to the disclaimer that I didn't bother to check out exactly what those starting prices represent and how comparable the two otherwise are, as I'm not interested right now — but one is the current lowest Apple Store price for something called the 'iPhone 11' and the other is for the 'iPhone 12'.

      1. Imhotep Silver badge

        Re: Why "upgrade"?

        I agree. The new model cycle just no longer provides a compelling reason to upgrade.

        Apple's challenge now is to provide a new product. I don't know if they have the people to do that anymore.

        I'm happy with my IPhone X and IPad. Happy enough that I don't see me spending any money to replace either for a long time.

        1. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Why "upgrade"?

          Apple's challenge now is to provide a new product. I don't know if they have the people to do that anymore.

          Very brave comment.

          Up-voted before the down-voting starts.

  3. NoneSuch Silver badge


    I wonder if the increasing inability to repair iThings has anything to do with the drop in sales.

    Yes, yes it does.

    1. Justthefacts

      Re: Corrolation?

      Genuine question: why does everyone focus so much on *repairability*, as opposed to *reliability and longevity*?

      I mean, yeah, if it does go wrong then it would be nice to be able to have it fixed rather than buy a new one. But why are phones so unreliable to start with?

      A TV easily lasts 20+ years. “TV repairmen” went the way of buggy whip salesmen a while ago. It seems far stranger that we accept phone build quality with solder joints on power supplies that give up the ghost after four years. Or the Apple charging cables with the too-short strain relief, so that they barely last a year or two. The whole IPhone “screen disease” debacle, caused by an internal push connector that’s just really dodgy.

      From my view, it seems like people should be flying the flag of build quality, not repairability.

    2. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

      Re: Corrolation?

      I wonder if the increasing inability to repair iThings has anything to do with the drop in sales

      How-easy-to-repair &/or right-to-repair is one factor.

      The other factor that has been bubbling to the top is the cost of the iPhones themselves.

      When the first, say, six "generations" of iPhones came out, they were affordable. Average people were happy to upgrade every two years.

      Starting with iPhone 9, I believe, the price has shot through a "pain" point/barrier, however, studies have shown that people were now pushing for three years upgrade "cycle" just to compensate for the butt-clenching prices.

      The price of the newly released iPhone 12 is "hovering": The price has slight increase over the the iPhone 11 but not much.

      1. Would this mean that people have finally reached the "threshold"?

      2. Would people still buy, say, iPhone 14 (if iPhone "13" is a bad-luck number), every two/three years? 3. Would the new upgrade cycle go up to four years?

      4. Will Apple going to reach for the "stars": A new threshold value of US$2000 base model?

      Food-on-the-table or a brand-spanking-new-gadget to impress friends -- which would a family person prefer? Oh, and the new gadget can make calls too.

      1. DoctorNine

        Re: Corrolation?

        This. I buy smartphones for six people in my family alone, as well as decide production kit for people in my office. With the price of a new iPhone now exceeding that of a Mac Air, the incentive to change ecosystems is starting to be irresistible. Even though Apple products used to be tangibly simpler to work with, that isn't really the case anymore. And my annual capital budget for tech gear is harder and harder to defend. I'm pretty much not going to do it anymore. Now I just have to decide whether I'm going to leave Apple entirely, or change paradigm completely, and go to flip phones and tablets. Wearables haven't really gotten to the point that they should be yet, but that's where I am looking.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Corrolation?

          Although the costs of a phone is hidden for most users, behind the contract monthly payments. The mini is approaching but not exceeding the price of a Mac air. I’ve been in an iPhone family for many years, we’ve never bought a new one, always get them used and a couple of years behind. Perfectly adequate phones and allows me to avoid the unacceptable alternative.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Corrolation?

        Pedantic point of order. There was no iPhone 9. The X came out alongside the 8. The Xs the following year.

        Your point still roughly holds though, which is why there is the iPhone 12(£799+) and iPhone 12 mini (£699+) that are low price compared to the very expensive pro (£999+) / pro max (£1099+).

        Will be interesting how well the mini sells given its form factor is back to the 5/5s/SE which was always popular, in addition to the price.

  4. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    Greater China is the region that was most heavily impacted by the absence of the new iPhones

    Is this really the "absence" or the current trade dispute (where Chinese citizens felt compelled to support local brand).

  5. fredesmite2

    You would have to be a complete moron

    to spend $1000 on a phone


    1. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

      Re: You would have to be a complete moron

      You would have to be a complete moron to spend $1000 on a phone

      What adjective would you use to describe a person who is going to buy this: $20k iPhone 12’ with diamond-encrusted back now available to order

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You would have to be a complete moron

        Maybe Angela Rayner could help out on this one.

  6. MatsSvensson


    * No USB-C: check

    * Big-ass notch: check

    Your move, Android.

  7. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I was surprised to find that overall smartphone sales were up this year, as personally I really can't see the point in upgrading a phone during a pandemic period when I am spending more time at home.

    1. BugabooSue

      Upvoted as I agree for the most part as I am currently stuck at home and pretty much bed-bound and I see your point.

      However, the battery on my ageing 6S+ is pretty much dead now, but I use it as a Portable TV, ebook reader, music player, and so on. It’s in use pretty much for 3-4 hours a day. When I finally get fit again, I’m going to need a new phone.

      I was looking at buying a tablet, but portability and not being able to be used as a phone are against getting one.

      I’ve been looking at the full-fat largest new iPhone as a replacement as the close-up eyesight is not that great these days.

      Holy shit! The price!!

      I just bought another new external battery case for the 6S+ (£17.65) and some stronger reading glasses (£3).

      Sorry Apple. Too rich for me.

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      I think you might be looking in the wrong direction; in the US the government responded to the economic fallout of COVID by passing a $2tn stimulus; if you are an individual filer and earn less than $75,000/year then you were eligible for most of the summer for a direct stimulus payment of $1,200/month. Then it decreased linearly up until you cross the $99,000/year threshold, after which you get nothing.

      The median salary in the US was $61,937, at least in 2018.

      So if you were an American earning the median salary or even slightly above it, and you were lucky enough to keep your job then you were suddenly $1,200/month richer, which is plenty of money to be splashing about on phones and other nonsense. Given that the US is still Apple's biggest market, it's also not particularly surprising that Q2 saw record iPhone sales.

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