iPhone 6S stands out as Apple’s most successful smartphone launch in the absence of iPhone 7’s first-weekend sales figures. Apple sold 13 million units of iPhone 6S in their launch weekend. The figure surpassed the 10 million units of iPhone 6 sold in the same period in the prior year. As such, iPhone 6S launch weekend rose 30 percent over iPhone 6 launch weekend sales.
Although Apple routinely announces first weekend sales of new iPhones, the iPhone 7 is a stark departure. Apple decided that it will not release launch weekend sales figures of the iPhone 7, with the CEO Tim Cook saying that the metric has now become less relevant than in the past for their customers and investors.
Apple believes that it has come to a point where initial iPhone sales depend more on supply rather than demand. For instance, the company is able to know before it starts taking customers preorders that it will sell out of a new iPhone.
Following the release of iPhone 6, which shattered previous iPhone sales, Cook commented that the launch weekend sales would have been much better had supply been able to keep up with the demand.
Significant Design Improvement
Unlike iPhone 6S, the iPhone 6 featured significant design improvement compared with the earlier models. For instance, the iPhone 6 saw Apple enter the phablet market with larger displays of 4.7-inch for iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch for iPhone 6 Plus. The iPhone 6 series also featured the most advanced processor, A8 chip, alongside improved FaceTime and iSight. On top of that, iPhone 6 became the first iPhone model to support Apple’s mobile payment service Apple Pay and that added to its customer appeal.
Therefore, the iPhone 6 had multiple incentives to beat previous iPhone launch sales. Apple sold nine million of iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C in the launch weekend in the year before it introduced iPhone 6. The company sold five million units of iPhone 5 and that was a huge milestone considering that the original iPhone only sold 700,000 in the launch weekend.
iPhone 6S Broad Availability
Though iPhone 6S didn’t come with much design upgrade as did iPhone 6 before it, its record 13 million units in the first weekend and was supported by its wider availability at launch. Apple didn’t release iPhone 6 in China until after nearly a month, but it did launch iPhone 6S in China shortly after U.S. launch.
The quick release of iPhone 6S in China, the world’s second-largest economy, supported the record weekend sales as Chinese tend to love big gadgets. Perhaps iPhone 6 launch sales would also have been much better if Apple made the device available in China immediately. Apple was actually for the immediate release of iPhone 6 in China but the company suffered regulatory setbacks that meant it had to delay until October of that year.
The iPhone 7, whose weekend sales Apple declined to release, had an even broader launch. While iPhone 6S was initially available for preorders in 12 countries, Apple supported initial iPhone preorders in 28 countries, thus more than doubling the availability of the new iPhone.
Unlike the iPhone 6S, the new iPhone 7 boasts features and more upgrades over its predecessor. For instance, Apple has done away with the audio jack in iPhone 7 and launch replaced the physical home button with a virtual key.
Coping with Shrinking Smartphone Market
As smartphone penetration in developed markets reaches saturation levels and competition becomes brutal in emerging markets, Apple has begun to see its iPhone sales decline. Pressure is increasing on the company to innovate so that it can differentiate its products from the competition and defend or expand its market share. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S did put Apple on the right track, but the iPhone 7 has come at a time when the competition has intensified with rivals diluting many of Apple’s competitive advantages.