According to a report from market research firm IHS Markit, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus not only sold better at home in the US, but also outsold all comers worldwide in the first half of 2017. To be honest, I found this report to be a big surprise. Apple has always been able to hold serve in North America, but worldwide sales of current gen iPhones has been an issue for them in the past due to pricing. In fact, Apple continues to struggle to gain a stronger foothold in China, and is still trying to get off the ground in India. Add to this the fact that the rumor mill for the iPhone X was absolutely insane, keeping many from upgrading last year, and you have surprising sellers in the iPhones 7 and 7 Plus.
One important detail from IHS Markit that has to be noted is that both Apple and Samsung saw declines in overall shipments of their flagship devices year over year. The reasons given for surprise that the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus topped this survey simultaneously explain why it didn’t quite measure up to the sales of the iPhones 6 and 6 Plus. Also, while Samsung may not have come in first or second place in sales, they did have five models to Apple’s four in the top 10. Oppo was the lone outlier on the list. This certainly confirms that it is still a two horse race in the world of smartphones. Hopefully Google’s Pixel 2 can start to broaden that out a bit, as more competition is always good for the market, as a whole.
The news actually got even better for Apple later in the week, as a separate report from Kantar showed that iOS not only gained market share in the US year over year from August to August, but also in several other large markets worldwide. Again, this seems counter-intuitive with a phone that was viewed by many as a stop-gap iPhone, since it retained the same basic design for the third year in a row. While the tech media and many of us who cover Apple expected weaker sales preceding the iPhone X, it seems that consumers think about things differently than we do.
Now, the numbers still show Android to have a large lead in market share in most of the world. If you follow Apple, this shouldn’t come as a shock, and I think we know by now that this doesn’t bother them, either. Kantar shows the iPhone’s share at 35% currently in the US, and depending on who is doing the survey and how, that number can be as high as 50-55% overall. This has been the case for several years, and it doesn’t show any signs of changing. These kinds of market surveys will always vary, so the number is less important than whether it is growing or shrinking consistently.
It is the iPhone’s growth in the rest of the world, however, that is surprising. They have never chased volume with massive price cuts or offering lower-end models, so Android will always own large areas of Africa, Asia, and South America with very little competition. However, as long as Apple is competitive head to head with the other flagships from Samsung, LG, Google (HTC) Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi, in larger markets worldwide, then they are just fine. These numbers reflect that they are still doing just that.
One key point to recognize is that Apple’s growth in France, Italy, and Germany had more to do with the final death of Windows Phone than Apple outselling Android. Both of the major platforms grew simultaneously in those countries. However, in Spain, China and here in the US, Apple took share at the expense of Android manufacturers, with Apple’s percentage of gain mirroring the decline in Android share almost verbatim. The gains are small, but they show that Apple is in a very stable position.
The only market surveyed in the report where iOS last market share was in Great Britain. Kantar cited aggressive marketing and discounts from Samsung and their individual growth as the reason for the 2% decline for Apple there. That 2 % really isn’t anything for either side to worry about. In fact, none of this is if you look at these two reports in context. iOS isn’t making a major move any more than Google’s Android is overwhelming Apple. These numbers reflect the gradual ebb and flow of the smartphone market, which has reached a pretty steady equilibrium and tends to move very slowly up and down, back and forth.
The positive for Apple is that the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus didn’t hurt them on the way to the iPhone X. There was a lot of conjecture about this over the last year, with Tim Cook even mentioning the X rumor mill as a reason for lower sales during one quarterly sales call. While sales did decline slightly, share did not. This stability with some small gains in sales and market share sets Apple up for what some are predicting to be a “super cycle” of upgrades. Time will tell, but it will be interesting to see whether Apple can get iPhone X production ramped up to meet demand and take advantage. Many will also be watching to see just how many people opt for the 8 or 8 Plus instead of waiting on the X. We will get a preview of this soon, with Apple’s 4th Quarter sales call coming up soon.