Predicting how the new iPhone may sell based data from previous iPhone launches

2 weeks ago by Gabriela Barkho in Trends

New year, new iPhone.

For the 11th consecutive year, Apple ($NASDAQ:AAPL) is set to unveil a reiteration of its popular flagship phone. The event is scheduled for September 12, and pressure is mounting for the tech giant to top its special-edition iPhone X launch last year.

Of course with this being an “S” year — with silly-sounding “XS” predictions in full swing — anecdotal speculation and leaks are pointing to everything from a gold finish to a bigger-size phone. Some rumors also point to the release of an “iPhone 9” alongside the XS. 

But with all that said, can Apple convince consumers to drop nearly $1,000 on a non-anniversary edition phone? After all, the “S” years have proven to offer fairly minor updates, like camera improvement, over the past decade.

To see if there is a trend amongst iPhone launches, we dug through the past three years of iPhone sales rank data at Best Buy, the world's largest iPhone retailer outside of Apple itself.

In general, iPhones’ popularity tends to surge most from their early fall release through the holiday season. From there, sales tend to slowly but surely drop as the cycle returns to post-launch normalcy.

Last year’s much-hyped iPhone X saw its sales consistently fall throughout the year, with a distinct sharp drop in August. That was around the time the “next iPhone release” rumors began to circulate.

The iPhone X can also claim the biggest single-day success at Best Buy; on November 5, 2017, two days after its release, the iPhone X had an average sales rank of 1,200 across all of its versions and cell phone providers. That rank is against every single product (read: tens of thousands) sold at Best Buy, from video games to SD cards and headphones to Apple dongles.

One thing is for sure, last year’s model will likely drop in popularity (and price) as soon as iPhone Whatever — hey, it doesn't have a name yet, so that one is still possible — is announced. For example, as sales charts show, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus saw their sales dip in fall 2017 as soon as the 8 and 8 Plus were ready to ship.

But it’s not all bad news for the one-year-old, soon-to-be out of fashion iPhones. As the 7 Plus demonstrated last year, the device managed to rally against its three younger siblings, otherwise known as the 8, 8 Plus and X, throughout 2017, and still continues to sell at a respectable rate. This was likely due to the major price cut from Apple, positioning the 7 Plus at an enticing $549 price tag, or half of what the iPhone X costs.

As the trends show, it's expected that last year’s models will face drops in popularity among buyers within the coming weeks. On the other hand, whatever new iPhone is released will enjoy a sharp launch period sales rank and subsequent revenue spike. This has been the trend for years, including 2017’s double release of the iPhone 8 in September and iPhone X in November.

If Apple repeats the offer this year, the appealing value could help the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus — and likely the limited-edition X — see consistent sales throughout the next year alongside the new iPhone Whatever.

Gabriela Barkho

Gabriela Barkho is a tech reporter based in New York City who covers startups, fin-tech and everything Silicon Valley.

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