- Benjamin Geskin
In tech circles, the unveiling of a new iPhone at an event next week is eagerly anticipated, with Apple expected to display a radically redesigned smartphone that marks 10 years since the launch of the first iPhone.
But it sounds as if this hype still isn’t shared by the wider public.
Piper Jaffray surveyed more than 400 iPhone owners, and it found that there was almost no more interest in upgrading this year than there was last year, when the new model was a relatively incremental improvement.
In a prelaunch survey in 2016, 15% said they expected to upgrade – versus 16% this year. (Twenty-four per cent said they would “maybe” upgrade in 2017, versus 29% in 2016.)
“We believe the survey suggests that awareness of potential for this year’s iPhone to be a more robust upgrade is relatively low,” the investment bank’s analysts wrote in a research note for clients on Tuesday.
The iPhone hasn’t had a major redesign since the iPhone 6 in 2014, when the phone was first available in two sizes. The models since then – the 6s in 2015 and the 7 in 2016 – have followed the same basic formula, with some hardware tweaks and under-the-hood performance improvements.
In contrast, Apple is expected to shake things up on September 12 with the launch of the iPhone 8 (or iPhone X, or iPhone Edition, depending on which rumour you believe). It is slated to have an almost edge-to-edge OLED screen, no physical home button for the first time, facial-unlocking technology, a glass back, and a revamped camera that takes advantage of Apple’s new augmented reality tech.
(Apple is also expected to unveil an iPhone 7s and a 7s Plus – an improved version of the 7 that would be cheaper than the 8 but without the radical redesign.)
Get ready for a bumper year for Apple
- Concept Creator/YouTube
Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously suggested that leaks and rumours about coming products cause customers to change their buying habits.
In May, he told analysts: “In general, we’re seeing what we believe to be a pause in purchases on iPhone, which we believe are due to the earlier and much more frequent reports about future iPhones. And so that part is clearly going on, and it could be what’s behind the data. I don’t know, but we are seeing that in full transparency.”
But Piper Jaffray’s research suggests that, for all these “frequent reports,” the nature of the coming iPhone 8 upgrade still hasn’t gotten through to many people.
That’s not to say the iPhone 8 won’t deliver strong sales, of course. The September launch will be accompanied by a huge wave of official publicity, and once the word gets out about the new features, on-the-fence potential customers may well be persuaded to take the plunge on the new device.
Piper Jaffray’s analysts say they expect to see bigger sales growth for the iPhone 8 than from any previous iPhone launch, with the exception of the smash-hit iPhone 6. They predict 12% year-on-year sales growth, versus 36% for the iPhone 6.
“In addition to a more robust upgrade in terms of form/function, we believe iPhone X units will benefit from a large iPhone installed base that will be ~2 years old (or older) by the late Sep-17 launch,” the analysts wrote, using the term “iPhone X” to refer to the coming Apple smartphone.
“Specifically, our analysis suggests that at the time of iPhone X launch there will be an installed base of ~330M users on an iPhone that’s at least 2 years old (see details in table below). We believe a sizable portion of these users, in addition to users with newer devices, will look to upgrade due to the age of their device and the more significant changes to the device. Our model assumes Apple sells ~242M iPhones in the 12 months following iPhone X launch.”