iPhone 6 Plus is a hit–especially internationally. iOS 8 adoption continues to lag.
It’s become a tradition every September: Apple releases new version of iOS and a new device. This time they gave their customers even more by releasing a new version of iOS, two new devices, and a sneak peak at a third – the mythical wearable (due in 2015). The mobile industry (and Wall Street) have been abuzz with these recent releases from Apple, but two factors make this unlike any other iPhone/iOS debut before it. First, the famously nimble population of iOS users did not upgrade to the new OS with the same agility from Septembers past. Second, the release of Apple’s first foray into the “phablet” space left questions around how much success this seemingly niche product might have compared to the robust sales of prior new iPhone models. We turned to our data to see what kind of insight we could provide about these two issues.
The devices: iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus launched with much fanfare. The 6 Plus was Apple’s first foray into the phablet market, so naturally a question about what the sales ratio was between the two new iPhone models arose. T-Mobile’s outspoken CEO John Legere told Recode’s Ina Fried that the ratio of iPhone 6 Plus orders compared to that of the iPhone 6 was higher than they anticipated. In fact, the iPhone 6 Plus sold out almost instantly, even when the supply constrained iPhone 6 was still available to order.
What is unclear is if this was because it was the more popular choice, or if the initial supply of the 6 Plus was considerably less than that of the more mainstream targeted iPhone 6. Since the 6 Plus is Apple’s first entry into the unfortunately named “phablet” category, it would make sense that they might start with a small pool to test demand. Our interest in the ratio of 6 versus 6 Plus was piqued. We process over 25 billion ad requests a day, so we decided to take a look at the high volume of data we process to learn more.
What we found:
Globally, usage of the iPhone 6/6 Plus averaged out to an 80/20 split, respectively. Since interaction and usage differences between the 6 and 6 Plus on our network are negligible, it’s fair to estimate that roughly one in five new iPhones sold is an iPhone 6 Plus.
Digging a little deeper, we noticed some interesting patterns in global usage ratios. In general, the 6 Plus is much more popular in APAC countries. While in North America, Western Europe, and Australia the iPhone 6/6 Plus ratio is much more aligned with the global average, APAC countries seem to have taken to the 6 Plus in greater numbers. In a region where phablet sales equal that of laptops and tablets combined, 6 Plus usage is consistently over 35% higher than iPhone 6 usage in the APAC countries. The chart below looks at a handful of these countries to illustrate the phenomenon. The one APAC country that bucks the trend is South Korea, where the ratio of iPhone 6/6 Plus is a moderate 71/29.
With every iPhone launch, there is a new iOS update that precedes it, but unlike every other iOS over the air (OTA) update, Apple’s latest has stumbled out of the gate. A lot has been said about why the adoption of iOS 8 lags that of iOS 7. Some have theorized that hiccups in the updating process have concerned some would-be upgraders. Notable Apple blogger John Gruber originally made this assertion, then had an epiphany based on reader feedback: It’s the storage space, stupid. Because the OTA update for iOS 8 weighed in at 5GB, many people did not have the available space on their phones to complete the update.
We took a closer look. The chart below compares the last two iOS releases by showing the share of iPhones that installed the newest operating system over the first 45 days. iOS 8 and iOS 7 both had a relatively steep early adopter curve, and continued to grow linearly after the first few days. iOS 8 has yet to close the gap on the trajectory set by iOS 7. It’s important to know that these OS adoption numbers are not absolute, which explains why they can fluctuate from day to day. But as we can see from the linear progressions of iOS 7 vs. iOS 8, network activity serves as a good proxy to infer user adoption.
Takeaways: What we learned from the data
No one expected iPhone 6 Plus to match or surpass the heights of iPhone 6, but usage was more robust than expected – especially in areas where phablets are already popular. It’s clear that with the 6 Plus, Apple has more than just a niche player on its hands. We’ll continue to keep an eye on how the numbers evolve in the coming months. While iOS 8 adoption is lagging behind iOS 7, it might not matter in the end, because new device sales will continue to grow adoption organically. As more people buy new iPhones 6 and 6 Plus, they’ll begin to use the new OS without having to make a decision. So while the adoption rate may be slower, the ultimate destination remains the same.