MISSED X-PECTATIONS

Almost nobody wants the iPhone X

Apple’s first few quarters after releasing a new iPhone always have the potential to make CEO Tim Cook look like a fool: Is the latest iPhone truly the “best iPhone ever made?”

Usually it’s true, and we all run out to buy the latest and greatest phone, just in time to show it off to our technophobic relatives during the holiday season. But analysts say that tide is shifting: Dramatically fewer people are buying the latest iPhones.

The iPhone X, Apple’s new flagship phone and heir apparent to the universal design of a smartphone, only accounted for 16% of the company’s smartphone sales so far in 2018, according to estimates (pdf) from analyst Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. The share of all new iPhones sold in the first quarter of 2018 has slid to 60%, down from 78% in 2015, the report stated. The new models include the iPhone X and the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus—meaning the old versions of iPhone are selling almost as well as their updated counterparts.

Apple’s introduction of the iPhone X, and its elevated $1,000 price, indicated Apple had confidence that people would be willing spend more than ever on a new phone to get cutting-edge technology—but a 11-point slide year over year in sales might indicate that confidence is misplaced.

That doesn’t mean Apple isn’t still exceedingly profitable: The iPhone X and its premium price captured 35% of all smartphone profits in Q4 2017, and Apple made 90% of all smartphone profits over that time. People want Apple’s smartphones, but don’t see enough value in perks like wireless charging and facial recognition offered in the newer models.

As my colleague Mike Murphy wrote earlier this week, a lackluster iPhone X isn’t a death knell for Apple’s smartphone innovation. The company’s hardware ecosystem, like the Apple Watch and AirPods, give much better reasons to buy an Apple phone than the latest features on the phone itself.

“If Apple can keep locking me into its ecosystem,” he wrote, “it probably won’t matter how average the next iPhone is, especially if it stays so far ahead in its accessories and experiences.”

We’ll know soon enough what the quarter looked like for Apple, as the company reports its earnings May 1.

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