The Golden Age of the iPhone Is Ending
As the smartphone market changes, Apple may be losing its edge
“Don’t bet against Apple.” That’s my go-to mantra when someone asks me about Apple’s future as a market leader, or the success of any new iPhone. If the company’s performance this quarter didn’t wow you, the next one probably will.
Yet the wind is clearly shifting for the iPhone, with intensifying worries about sales figures, diminishing global demand for smartphones overall, rumors that Apple won’t make the 5G leap for another year, and the company’s startling decision to stop disclosing unit sales for iOS devices and Macs in its financial reports. Though you’d be foolish to doubt Apple’s prospects, the status quo for its star product is, after many years, changing.
It’s no secret that much of Apple’s recent success has been driven by the now 11-year-old iPhone. Its rocket-like sales trajectory really began in 2009, after Apple introduced the App Store, a platform that transformed the iPhone from a beautiful gadget into a genuinely useful pocket device. Over the next decade, it narrowed our gaze from a wide vista to the distance between our eyes.
Apple and the iPhone are not immune to larger smartphone market forces.
Year-over-year iPhone sales grew by tens of millions, with post-holiday quarters setting monumental records. Looked at in isolation, it’s easy to think that Apple dominates the market, especially if you spend most of your time in the United States, where the iPhone has a commanding 39 percent market share compared to its nearest rival, Samsung, which has 25 percent of the U.S. market. In the global market, Apple trails Samsung and Huawei.
Apple and the iPhone are not immune to larger smartphone market forces. Smartphone sales growth has slowed over the last few years, and, perhaps thanks to market saturation, may even be in decline.
Tuong Nguyen, a senior principal analyst at Gartner, told me via email that although there’s been evidence of a slowing phone market for some time, Apple’s position as a higher-end brand and the overall prestige of the iPhone name may have shielded it a bit.