If sales are the most important point, there may be trouble ahead. A couple of notable reports have claimed that the iPhone X has had slower-than-expected sales so far this year. Japanese paper Nikkei reported this weekend that Apple has told its manufacturers to cut back on the number of iPhone X units they produce headed into next year. KGI Securities analyst Ming Chi-Kuo said in a note last week that Apple probably won't sell the iPhone X at a cheaper price next year, but will simply replace it with an upgraded version, according to MacRumors. Apple hasn’t said anything about sales ahead of its earnings report Thursday.
Kantar Worldpanel reported this month that fewer Americans picked up the iPhone X than the iPhone 8 or the iPhone 8 Plus — although the premium phone still beat Samsung’s Galaxy S8 in overall rankings. But many analysts expected a “super cycle” of iPhone sales this year, spurred by people who hung on to their older iPhones to see what the iPhone X had in store. That super cycle doesn’t seem to have materialized, based on analyst and carrier reports. Verizon chief financial officer Matthew Ellis, for example, said in an earnings call last week that new phone upgrades in general were lower than in the same period last year.
People have continued to hold onto their phones longer, meaning that they may not be rushing out to buy new phones as frequently. That trend has emerged over the past few years as phones have become more reliable. This slowdown in phone sales is often cited as a reason that Apple is focusing so heavily on its services — the App Store, Apple Music, etc. — to show that its financial health does not rest solely on how many new phones it hawks each year.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Worries about slumping iPhone X demand have sent Apple shares down nearly 5 percent over the past week, showing how important investors think it is for Apple to continue to dominate the higher-end smartphone market. Shares closed down 2.07 percent to $167.96 Monday. Two analyst firms — Longbow Research and Atlantic Equities — have also downgraded their recommendations on Apple's stock in light of the sales forecasts.
Still, other analysts say the key thing that Apple will have to show is that its gamble to make the iPhone X so expensive has raised the average selling price (ASP) of a phone. If that number goes up, it will show that the iPhone X and its premium pitch can bring in more money even if Apple's overall phone sales dip.
“[An] at least 15 percent ASP increase resulting in 25 percent iPhone revenue growth,” combined with broader success and a new favorable tax regime, should offset worries about sales, Steven Milunovich, an analyst for UBS, said in a note to investors.