Apple’s iOS 13 adoption data hints at iPhone 11 sales

The number of older devices in use appears to be shrinking, but convincing iPhone 6 owners to upgrade is critical.

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Apple tells us that four weeks since launch, iOS 13 is now in use by over half of all the devices sold in the last four years; that data may also hint at the strength of its iPhone sales.

Apple’s latest data shows rapid iOS adoption

Since iOS 13’s release on Sept. 19, Apple’s latest data shows the following:

All devices introduced in the last four years

  • 55% of all devices introduced in the last four years use iOS 13.
  • 38% of all devices introduced in the last four years use iOS 12.
  • 7% of all devices introduced in the last four years use an earlier version of iOS.

All devices used

  • 50% of all devices use iOS 13.
  • 41% of all devices use iOS 12.
  • 9% of all devices use an earlier iOS version.

Apple published this information earlier than it did in 2018, when it waited six weeks to provide initial iOS upgrade information.

At that time, it said iOS 12 (released Sept. 17, 2018) was installed on 63% of active devices introduced in the last four years and 60% of all devices. It also observed that 11% of all devices and 7% of recent devices were on iOS 10 or earlier at that time.

How does this compare to August 2019?

I thought it might be interesting to take a quick glance at earlier data for comparison’s sake. Looking around, I found August 2019 figures (prior to the launch of iOS 13), which showed the following:

All devices introduced in the last four years

  • 90% of all devices use iOS 12.
  • 7% of all devices use iOS 11.
  • 3% of all devices on an earlier OS.

All devices used

  • 88% of all devices use iOS 12.
  • 7% use iOS 11.
  • 5% on an earlier iOS version.

These figures are just a couple of months old. That means they reflect adoption of Apple’s then-current iOS version and don’t include iPhone 11 series device sales.

Data, data everywhere

What I thought interesting is that if you take the August All-devices-used data and combine iOS 11 with earlier iOS adoption you get 12%, which represents the number of people who you could consider to be running an earlier iOS than iOS 12 at the time.

That 12% figure is important, as (in theory, at least) you’d expect to find a similar number in the most recent Apple statistic. The thing is, you don’t: This shows just 9% of devices currently using iOS versions older than iOS 12 – and (as you may recall), the 2018 figures from around the same time showed around 11% of devices were then using older systems.

Baffle them with stats

I don’t want to throw any more data around today – I’m getting confused holding it all in. But I do think we can make some assumptions:

1. There may be fewer older devices in use

News that the number of devices running two-years-or-older operating systems has declined year-on-year suggests that people have upgraded. Don’t neglect that the last year is seen as being relatively flat in terms of iPhone sales.

2. Device upgrades are happening

It’s really hard to be exact, but at this stage in the transition between operating systems, it looks like people are upgrading their devices.

3. iPhone 11 sales are taking place

The data strongly suggests people are purchasing iPhone 11, based on the difference in the number of devices running older software. That’s a claim that tallies with what the analysts have been saying.

It suggests Apple really did get the price/benefits mix better this time around. Its decision to define the range around the iPhone 11, rather than offering consumers what could be perceived as a worse device for cheaper (as it did with iPhone XR) has encouraged people to upgrade, I think.

The problem with upgrades

However, the data does suggest some problems. By Oct. 29, 2018, 63/60% of users (recent/all devices) had shifted to iOS 12.

This year 55/50% of users are using iOS 13 – though it is important to note that this is over a shorter period of time (four weeks versus six).

With that in mind, these figures are broadly in line, but they do hint that some iOS users are taking a wait-and-see approach to iOS 13. That’s actually good sense on their part.

Apple has published four updates to the iOS so far and has another on the way. The updating process takes time, and most people prefer to upgrade rarely, rather than often. At the same time, Apple should be commended for working hard to patch security problems, upgrade features and the like.

While I take claims on social media with a huge amount of cynicism, I’m aware of some consensus that iOS 13 is a little buggy. Apple’s recent updates have definitely improved the OS, but this inevitably slows adoption.

It hasn’t slowed it down much, as the data shows, but I’ve a feeling (and intuition/opinion should not be confused with data), that this year’s iOS upgrade cycle is being significantly driven by iPhone 11 sales.

Apple must unleash the iPhone 6 upgrade cycle

Apple’s iPhone 11 appears to be selling pretty well – but Apple can still sell many millions more. Recall the five-year-old iPhone 6?

Apple’s most popular iPhone model ever (over 220 million sold) is not supported by iOS 13.

Logically, then, you’d expect a huge chunk of Apple’s devices to remain on iOS 12 as they are iPhone 6 models.  

41% of all devices now use iOS 12, many of which I imagine are 6 model iPhones.

Convincing those users to upgrade is critical. I think that congregation of users has to be fought for, and this has to happen in the coming weeks.

It is reassuring to note that, given some iPhone 6 owners are quite price-conscious, Apple has a back-up plan for a lower-cost device in 2020, according to some reports.

It is also possible that Apple’s TV+ service will stimulate iPhone sales when it launches Nov. 1.

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