Apple engineers the return of iPhone mania as its harvest season begins

Queues form worldwide as consumers vote with their wallets for this year’s most-anticipated smartphone release.

Queues form worldwide as consumers vote with their wallets for this year’s most anticipated smartphone release. The Apple harvest has begun. Australia’s first rush of iPhone X sales have been and gone, but as dawn breaks across the U.S., queues outside Apple and partner carrier retail stores suggest its hold on smartphone consumer imagination is as strong as ever, despite all the cynical noise.

The next decade

Apple’s on a roll.

September’s iPhone 8 releases have already driven higher-than-anticipated sales, the company is approaching a billion dollars a day in services revenue, and it is seeing growth across all its product range.

You could argue that in a land beyond media imagination, Apple is becoming cool again. Potentially on the back of the most advanced smartphone it has introduced yet. Consumers seem particularly keen to try all its new features.

Australia and Japan were the first to see iPhone X mania return in a big way, following the predictably more muted iPhone 8/8 Plus launch. This has been followed in every market this morning, with queues now formed outside Apple retails stores across the U.S.

Steady eBay trade in iPhone 8 handsets suggests many of the company’s most loyal consumers bought one while they waited on the X. We’re seeing iPhone X units trading for over $2,000 apiece. Apple may well have managed to persuade many to break with tradition and pick up a new smartphone before the end of the standard two- to three-year upgrade window. The company also appears to have successfully provoked the anticipated upgrade supercycle as iPhone 6/6s owners move to upgrade.

It’s also important to reflect on the fact that when the company made the device available for pre-order last week, it sold an estimated 3 million units in just 20 minutes (approximations throughout). That is 2,500 iPhone X sales each second.

Positive Apple data

Apple CFO Luca Maestri set the scene when he revealed the following 451 Research data points during the company’s November 2 fiscal call:

  • U.S. customer satisfaction of 97 percent or higher across all iPhone models. (It's 95 percent among enterprise users.)
  • iPhone customers are 95 percent loyal, while the closest competing brand has just 53 percent loyalty.
  • Sixty-nine percent of consumers who intend to purchase a smartphone in the next 90 days plan to buy an iPhone. (That's five times the rate of the closest competitor.)
  • Eighty percent of those planning to buy a smartphone by the end of December plan to purchase an iPhone. Maestri called this, “the highest score for iPhone in the history of the survey.”

[Also read: Life after the Home button: The iPhone X gestures guide]

Tearing the iPhone X down

The race is now on to tear an iPhone X apart to find out what’s inside the system. iFixit has already achieved this, and this morning’s teardown analysis (using a unit sourced in Australia) confirms what most will expect: The device is the most densely packed with technology of any iPhone taken apart so far, and repair of the sophisticated device will be harder than ever.

(From an environment and climate change perspective, I do hope Apple continues to develop a fair recycling and reuse policy that rewards consumers for returning old devices for disassembly and reuse, given that repair of these systems can only become more complex as miniaturized technology evolves.)

“The closest thing we've seen to the iPhone X’s stacked logic board is the one we found tearing down the original iPhone,” notes iFixit.

“Of course, the new phone’s case — with its metal frame and subtle curves — also pays homage to the original. Ten years of iPhone, one design team. Even after a decade of iteration and innovation, Apple has built a device that evokes the spirit of its greatest visionary.”

Apple’s harvest festival

Global enthusiasm and a supply/demand balance that will contribute to at least two quarters of iPhone mania spells bad news for competitors in the smartphone space.

Not only must they create a competitive product (and let’s face it, Pixel 2 is only a just-about-good-enough competitor for the iPhone 6), but they also have to figure out how to hang onto existing members of their not-particularly-loyal user base against the onslaught of the looming wave of iPhone X consumers/evangelists/fans who will be sending those darn Animoji’s to anyone who can receive them.

The scale is significant. Newly released data from Slice Intelligence’s panel of over 5 million online shoppers shows that the iPhone X launch “was the largest single product launch in Apple history,” Slice said, revealing:

  • Three times more iPhone X devices were purchased than iPhone 8/8 Plus, so the low iPhone 8/8 Plus pre-orders (78 percent less than iPhone 7 in the first five days of pre-orders) were due to anticipation for the iPhone X release.
  • Ninety-six percent of iPhone X buyers are upgrading from a previous Apple device — 51 percent of them are coming from the iPhone 7/7Plus.

With iPhone 8 and Apple Watch Series 3 also tempting customers, it looks like Apple’s annual holiday harvest season has begun.

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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