Analysts with Longbow Research and Nomura Securities both recently had some negative news to share about the sales performance of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) current flagship smartphone, the iPhone X (via 9to5Mac).
Longbow, citing "sources inside Apple's Asian manufacturing supply chain," says that iPhone shipments will continue to be "flat or declining" throughout the rest of the year. Moreover, while growth in iPhone average selling prices (ASPs) allowed Apple to post iPhone revenue growth last quarter (even as iPhone unit shipments were down 1%), the ASP story is expected to weaken as iPhone X becomes a smaller portion of Apple's overall iPhone unit shipments.
Analysts with Nomura apparently had similarly bad news to share. The analysts brought down their iPhone X sales expectations for Apple's fiscal second quarter to between 8 million and 12 million units, which represented a sharp reduction from their previous expectations of between 13 million and 18 million shipments.
At this point, it's hard to deny that the iPhone X is proving to be something of a disappointment for both Apple as well as the bullish analysts who cover Apple.
Here's what that means for Apple's business.
Another weak product cycle
Following Apple's wildly successful iPhone 6 product cycle, which began in the second half of 2014, Apple has struggled to grow iPhone unit shipments significantly in subsequent cycles. The iPhone 6s cycle saw iPhone unit shipments drop significantly year over year, while the iPhone 7 cycle saw unit shipments inch upward from the levels seen during the iPhone 6s cycle (though they were still well below the levels seen during the iPhone 6 cycle).
It's not looking like the current iPhone product cycle, which consists of the iPhone 8 series as well as the iPhone X, is going to be much better on the unit shipment front.
Part of that can, of course, be attributed to a weakening overall smartphone market -- Apple isn't immune to industry trends. However, another part of it may be that Apple's most interesting product -- iPhone X -- came at a price point that was inaccessible to many potential iPhone buyers, while the products that Apple offered at more traditional price points were simply updated versions of the same basic designs that Apple introduced with the iPhone 6 series smartphones in 2014.
So, I think that investors who had previously expected the current product cycle to be a big product cycle in the vein of the iPhone 6 cycle in 2014 will be disappointed.
The next one might not be so weak
Though the current iPhone product cycle is shaping up to be a disappointment, there's still hope for the coming cycle. Later this year, Apple is expected to introduce three new iPhone models. Replacing the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus will be a cost-optimized iPhone X-like device with an all-screen display and 3D sensing capability.
The iPhone X is expected to get an upgrade and Apple is even set to introduce a larger version of the iPhone X, which I'll refer to as the iPhone X Plus.
With this product lineup, Apple should have a highly compelling product at traditional iPhone price points while also offering a super-large version of the next-generation iPhone X for users who prefer jumbo-sized screens.
Ultimately, while a new set of iPhones won't solve the fundamental issue of a stagnant smartphone market, it should be the best iPhone lineup that Apple has put out in years -- something that could help accelerate the pace at which consumers upgrade to new iPhones, ultimately boosting Apple's iPhone sales for at least a product cycle.