My daughter just turned 7. No, we didn't get her an iPhone -- we got her an iPod Touch. The iPhone just turned 8, but I'm afraid that I didn't get Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) flagship smartphone anything for the occasion. On the contrary, the iPhone has given me plenty over the nearly decade that I've been an Apple shareholder (I bought my first Apple shares in 2006, a year before the iPhone launched). Instead, here are eight charts to celebrate the day Apple shipped the first iPhone: June 29, 2007.
Apple share performance
When Apple launched the iPhone, it was already on the comeback trail thanks to the blowout success of the iPod. But the iPhone solidified Steve Jobs' comeback and would become the most important product of a generation. The iPhone has single-handedly disrupted and revolutionized countless industries beyond just the smartphone market. Its effects have reverberated through even tangential markets.
Apple investors have been handsomely rewarded since that day.
Quarterly units sold
The iPhone was not an instant success at launch. Apple sold "just" 1.1 million units during the device's first full quarter of availability (third-quarter 2007). To be clear, this was a very good start; it merely looks small relative to what the company ships these days.
This was primarily a function of the iPhone's high retail price, since Apple did not immediately adopt the subsidy model that was common in the industry at the time. Incidentally, the subsidy model now appears to be on its way out as carriers shift to installment and leasing plans. The original iPhone was priced at $499 for a 4 GB model and $599 for an 8 GB model, and that was with the standard two-year service contract.
Apple quickly recognized the strategic pricing error, reducing the price by $200 just three months after launch. This caused some backlash among early adopters who had paid full price, and Jobs personally wrote an open letter of apology, offering a $100 store credit to split the difference. For the next product cycle, Apple adopted the subsidy model, and sales immediately took off.
Over the past four quarters alone, Apple has sold over 210 million iPhones. They grow up so fast.
Looking at units sold from a different angle, here is the cumulative number of iPhones Apple has sold throughout the product's history.
As of last quarter, Apple had sold 726.2 million iPhones.
As you can imagine, revenue has soared alongside unit sales.
In the first full quarter of availability, the iPhone generated $489 million in revenue. Last quarter, the iPhone generated $40.3 billion in sales.
It's incredible to consider how large the iPhone business has become. This is especially impressive when you consider that Apple only released a single model per year until 2013, when it released both the iPhone 5s and 5c. So far, Apple has only had two product cycles (2013 and 2014) in which it released two models concurrently.
This single product line officially crossed the $100-billion threshold last September in terms of trailing 12-month revenue. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus launched with just days left in the fiscal year, and the pair subsequently helped iPhone TTM revenue jump to nearly $135 billion in the two quarters since.
Fortune released its official Fortune 500 rankings for 2015 earlier this month. If the iPhone were a stand-alone business, it would sit in the No. 12 spot where AT&T currently resides with $132.4 billion in revenue in its last fiscal year. To be fair, I'm comparing the iPhone's current TTM revenue base with AT&T's fiscal year (ending December) revenue, but it's not like Ma Bell is growing much these days (revenue inched higher by just 0.3% last quarter). You get the picture.
Average selling prices
At a time when much of the smartphone market is undergoing the commoditization that naturally comes with most consumer technology, the iPhone has proven remarkably resilient to those pricing pressures. Apple's vertical integration gives it unrivaled pricing power compared to its competitors, the vast majority of which make Android devices. There was some pricing volatility in the first year due to the initial pricing misstep, but the subsidy model did wonders to stabilize average selling prices.
Not only have iPhone average selling prices been stable over the years, but they have been trending up over the past few quarters, thanks to two new pricing developments. First, the iPhone 6 Plus comes with a $100 premium relative to the iPhone 6 due to the larger 5.5-inch display. Second, Apple changed its pricing structure for NAND storage. Nowadays, the entry-level price gets you 16 GB of storage, with the mid range model carrying 64 GB of storage for an extra $100. Those are powerful incentives to give Apple another $100.
% of total revenue
The iPhone has risen precipitously in importance to Apple's business. In a way, this could be perceived as concentration risk. After all, when almost two-thirds of sales come from one product line, a potential flop could be disastrous. That was particularly true in the one-model-per-year days, but the risk is still real today.
Make no mistake, the iPhone is Apple's most important product by a very large margin, currently comprising 64% of TTM revenue. It's not even close -- the iPad and Mac each provide approximately 12% of TTM revenue.
The fall of BlackBerry and Nokia
Disruption has victims. In the iPhone's case, the two most visible victims were BlackBerry and Nokia. The best way to suffer from disruption is to be the one doing the disrupting. Apple has never hesitated to disrupt itself, which is why it doesn't fret about cannibalization. So long as you're buying a product from Apple, it's happy.
BlackBerry and Nokia once defined and dominated the smartphone market, only to swiftly fall from grace at the hands of the first modern smartphone with a capacitive touchscreen. These two companies are now mere shells of their former selves. While BlackBerry still clings to its handset business, its future very clearly lies in cross-platform enterprise security software and services. Nokia unloaded its handset business to Microsoft in order to focus on its successful networking equipment segment, but apparently misses designing phones. Here's how they have performed since the iPhone's launch.
With as much as the device has accomplished over the past eight years, what will the next eight years bring?