Tim Cook blames iPhone rumors for iPhone sales problems
You’re not buying iPhones because the media keeps reporting on future iPhones.
Blaming the media for doing its job and feeding this voracious interest in all things Apple may sound a little like whining, (it’s not my fault, it’s your fault) and maybe it is, but Cook is right.
The company is held to a higher standard and is the subject of such intense interest that it’s forever swimming upstream against a roiling river of rumors and leaks.
Last quarter, Apple sold over 50 million iPhones. A sizeable number that is still considered a miss and does pale in comparison to the 78 million iPhone sold the quarter before.
The iPhone sales numbers also look a little less sunny when compared to Q2 last year, after the iPhone 6s and 6S Plus release. After a 74M unit quarter, iPhone sales came in at over 51M. Dialing back to 2015, we find evidence of a more concerning trend. After Apple released the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (the last time Apple truly redesigned the chassis) in late 2014, Apple sold 74M units in Q1 and 61M units in Q2.
Or maybe it’s the press.
Apple CEO Tim Cook offered his different and somewhat more controversial theory in answer to a question on lower iPhone purchasing intent. Cook replied.
“In general, what we are seeing, 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.”
It was a surprising admission and a rare, unguarded moment for the Apple CEO. While Cook often talks during earning’s calls about external market factors, he rarely mentions reviews or reporting of any kind about his company. The company line is usually, “we do not comment on rumor and speculation.”
Now, Cook had, in a way, done just that.
Has Apple grown so tired of the rumor mill (which often turns out to be accurate) that he’s finally pushing back?
I often joke that iPhone 8 rumors started minutes after Apple unveiled the iPhone 7 in September, but, as Cook indicates, I’m wrong. Those rumors started months before. A Google search on the “iPhone 8 rumors” brings back 7 million results. If I broaden the search to just iPhones, I get 16 million results.
How do we know that people haven’t simply woken up to the fact that the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are only minor upgrades from the iPhone 6s and 6S Plus? Maybe consumers are tiring of the design or rebelling over the missing 3.5 mm jack. All these things could be true.
But they don’t feel true.
128M iPhones sold doesn’t scream failure or dissatisfaction. Plus, the failure Cook was referencing was on intent to buy, meaning this is all about future iPhone buyers or upgraders who are holding back for some unspoken reason.
All those rumors about the iPhone 8, the tenth anniversary iPhone, point to something extraordinary coming: New materials, an infinity OLED screen, curves, wireless charging, smart connector, fingerprint sensor hidden behind screen, OG iPhone retro-influence.
Over the years, I’ve spoken to people who bought iPhone in August only to watch in disbelief as Apple released a much better device only a month later. They usually blame me:
“Ugh, I just bought this iPhone. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Tell you what?”
“That Apple was planning on releasing a new iPhone – a month after I bought mine!”
“Sorry. Don’t you read the news?”
“Yeah, but not the tech news. I rely on you.”
“Whatever. Enjoy your phone.”
These days, though, the iPhone rumor stories are so pervasive, they’re inescapable. Everyone knows Apple is working on the next big thing.
Analyst and long-time Apple watcher Creative Strategies President Tim Bajarin, thinks Cook is right. “That is a very true statement. Speculation about the iPhone 8 or whatever it will be called is high since it also is the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. We have talked to many people who believe this new iPhone will have a significant new design with key upgrades and are holding off purchasing a new one until then.”
Bajarin added that when the iPhone 8 finally does arrive, it will kick off a “super cycle of iPhone sales” that could last well into 2019.
There are other companies, like Samsung, working on their next big thing, but they don’t have fanboys and girls. There are rumor stories about phones from Samsung and even Microsoft, but no interest frenzy and little impact on current or future sales.
So, yes, maybe Apple does have an iPhone rumor reporting problem, but, to be honest, it’s a good problem to have.