The Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max is unveiled during a virtual product launch.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The iPhone hit its peak three years ago.
That’s when Apple reported its last blowout holiday quarter for the iPhone, selling more than 77 million devices that generated $61.1 billion in revenue. It’s been downhill for Apple’s iPhone sales ever since.
But the most bullish Apple analysts were nonetheless predicting a new “super cycle” for the iPhone ahead of the iPhone 12 announcement on Tuesday.
Apple’s last super cycle was in the fourth quarter of 2014, when it reinvigorated the iPhone lineup by introducing larger screens that matched rival devices from companies like Samsung. That quarter, Apple sold 74.47 million iPhones (up 46% from the previous year), generating $51.18 billion in revenue (up 57% from the year before).
Apple’s iPhone business has never seen that kind of growth again.
Revenue peaked in the fourth quarter of 2017, but even then it was only up 13% from the previous year, and unit sales dropped 1% — the increase in revenue was thanks to a higher average selling price, as Apple released its first $1,000 iPhone.
The bull case
So what’s with all the bullish calls for another super cycle given the iPhone’s lackluster (or negative) growth over the last three years? A few factors are working in Apple’s favor this time around.
Time for an upgrade: Analysts estimate that 30% or more of current iPhone owners are using a device that’s at least 3 years old. That’s a lot more people than are normally feeling the itch to upgrade in a given year.
Speed: The iPhone 12 series will be the first from Apple to connect to new 5G wireless networks that promise faster speeds for downloading and streaming, along