In the first nine months of the year before the iPhone X’s launch, analysts worked themselves into a tizzy debating whether or not the iPhone X would be a home run. The general consensus has always been that the iPhone X would be a success; the question is just how many Apple would sell.
Early on, analysts coined the idea of a “super-cycle” of updates, which would be driven by the iPhone X’s innovative features, plus the fact that many users didn’t see a need to upgrade to the iPhone 7. There would be so many people just desperate for upgrades, so the narrative went, that Apple would be printing even more money than usual.
Thanks to the extremely limited supply during the first month of availability, we still don’t know for sure just how successful iPhone X sales have been. But according to analysis from Cowen and Co analyst Karl Ackerman, seen by Bloomberg, the answer is “not very”:
“Some investors may conclude this relates to better sales momentum for the X, but we are increasingly concerned that demand has been below initial expectations as users appear to have gravitated toward the previous iPhone models,” Ackerman said in the note. He reportedly said that sales of the iPhone X and iPhone 8 are “good, but not yet indicative of a ‘super cycle.’’
All in all, Ackerman is predicting that Apple will sell 79 million iPhones in the September-December period, up 1 million units from the 78 million it sold in the same period last year. That very much is an increase; it’s just not the “super cycle” investors were hoping for when they drove Apple’s stock through the roof.
For Apple to meet expectations, it’s going to need to have a very strong first quarter of 2018 when it comes to iPhone sales. Ackerman is predicting 56 million units sold in Q1 2018, which would be up on the same period this year, but down from the peak in sales that came from the iPhone 6 cycle.
There are already some indications, however, that demand will remain stronger than usual into next year. Executives from the wireless industry — which make up a significant proportion of the cellphone sales — have suggested that iPhone X demand will “roll over” into next year, as supply becomes more widely available, and customers are able to make better-informed purchases thanks to word of mouth and long-term reviews.
Analyst predictions about sales always need to be taken with a pinch of salt: it’s difficult to estimate sales at the best of times, and when you’re talking about the difference between 78 million and 79 million units moved, the accuracy of estimates is always in question. But Ackerman’s note underlines the fact that while the iPhone X has been well-received by reviewers, the only thing that really matters to Apple is consumers buying it, and buying it in droves.
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