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Data Desk: iPhone X trails behind iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, but not for long

by John Krystynak on Jan 31, 2018

The iPhone X sees 51% growth going into 2018.

In September 2017, Apple did something unprecedented: it announced two new generations of iPhones at the same time. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus represented the typical evolution of existing iPhones we’d seen before, but it was the iPhone X that stole the show for investors hoping Apple could turn the tide on slowing smartphone sales. Most notably, the iPhone X killed the Home button in favor of Face ID and debuted an edge-to-edge display with a distinctive notch.

In the past couple of weeks, various reports about the iPhone X’s weak holiday sales caused Apple’s stock to drop nearly 2 percent. Nikkei reported that Apple told its suppliers it was cutting its Q1 production target for the iPhone X by half, impacting Samsung, Sony, and other parts suppliers. There’s a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt surrounding the iPhone X and Apple’s smartphone business, so let’s take a look at our data to see what’s actually going on.

The consequence of releasing three phones at once

Despite the huge amount of iPhone X hype, our data shows the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus appear to be outselling Apple’s new all-screen wonder in the US—for now. Our data factors in billions of ad impressions per month across iOS devices in the US and was captured from November 3, 2017 (iPhone X launch day) to January 11, 2018. Keep in mind that the iPhone 8 models were launched in September, so they had a two-month head start on the iPhone X.

Applovin-US-usage-since-iPhoneX-launch

While the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are outperforming the iPhone X so far, our data reveals iPhone X adoption has huge potential for growth. Despite initial uncertainty about the sales performance of the iPhone X, we see substantial numbers of consumers willing to shell out $1,000+ for a smartphone. Impressions on the iPhone X are steadily climbing into the new year as supply of the device becomes abundant, and they’re set to exceed the iPhone 8 in the next couple of months.

Focusing on the last eleven days of the data (since January 1st, 2018) we’ve seen iPhone X impressions grow by 51% compared to 38% for the iPhone 8 Plus and  43% for the iPhone 8, showing the iPhone X’s increased momentum over its newly released siblings.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus enjoyed more of a post-Christmas usage bump than the iPhone X. Instead of flocking to the iPhone X in droves, it seems holiday shoppers were more interested in purchasing the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus at lower price points. Sales of the iPhone X were also depressed by supply constraints, although the situation improved throughout the month of December.

AppLovin-US-iPhone-usage-through-Christmas

It’s important to note that our data is indicative of overall usage; it doesn’t represent the number of unique devices we see. This means different usage habits may be unaccounted for, such as larger phones being more popular for media consumption. Still, when comparing our data to sales reports from other firms, we have confirmation that the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are in fact outselling the iPhone X at the moment. Further, the seasonality of the data—sampled during the holidays—represents a time when people are generally not at work or in school, and therefore have more time to spend on their phones. We expect this rising tide of usage would affect all devices more or less evenly, however, as would our continuing network growth.

Evolutionary, not revolutionary

When the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus were released in November, some analysts were worried by reports of slow sales and now there are worries about sales of the iPhone X. Looking back, we can see those fears were largely unfounded. Our data shows the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are quickly rising in usage, especially after the holiday season. While it’s true the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are selling more like “s” models (since there is no iPhone 7s or 7s Plus), this doesn’t diminish the fact that many iPhone users are jumping to the new handsets.

The bigger unknown was how the market would receive the iPhone X after Apple released three new phones in one go, including its first $1000+ smartphone. Two months in, we can clearly see the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are ahead on overall sales, but the iPhone X has more momentum going into 2018. This not only tells us that consumers are ready and willing to spend “laptop money” for their mobile phones, but it also shows there’s a large segment of consumers who see the incremental updates of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus as “good enough.” While the reports of Apple cutting iPhone X production is alarming, the company also cut production of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus by 30% in 2016 and yet Apple continues to grow its iPhone sales.

Apple may have diluted the success of the iPhone X by releasing two cheaper models two months before, but our data shows that consumers are slowly but surely adopting Apple’s most refined iPhone yet. The iPhone X may not skyrocket phone sales for Apple, but we believe it will help maintain Apple’s mobile dominance in the US market in 2018.

John Krystynak is AppLovin’s Chief Technology Officer.

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