The iPhone X conundrum

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Apple’s iPhone X is possibly the most significant redesign of the company’s flagship product in years, and it’s especially refreshing after years of basically rehashing the same shell over and over but with improved components (some of which are pretty drastic like the NVMe storage controller on the iPhone 6s, which resulted in significant UX performance improvements at the time). As such. analysts all over have expected some sort of “supercycle” (a mad rush of people upgrading their older phones), but as time went on, despite strong pre-order numbers, it became clear that while the iPhone is selling well as a whole, the X did not manage to create a supercycle as sales have apparently fallen well-short of expectations.

Why didn’t the iPhone X meet its expectations? And why is Apple planning to axe it after just over a year in the market? We’ll find out.

Why isn’t the iPhone X meeting sales expectations?

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This is perhaps the biggest question on everyone’s minds. The iPhone X is the biggest redesign of the iPhone in years, and that alone should help boost sales, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case. Why isn’t it selling? Was it a bad phone? No, far from it. There isn’t one singular reason to why it isn’t meeting sales expectations but a combination. Here are some of the reasons that the X isn’t selling as well as analysts had hoped.

#1 – Price

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The iPhone X is the most expensive iPhone ever made, with a base MSRP of $999 and goes all the way to $1149. The high price can play a role in some people deciding to either stick with their current phones or purchase a cheaper alternative. It should be noted that while the price can be a factor, it doesn’t seem to be an overly big one as sales were still strong, but the high price alone could have played a role in swaying the decisions of some.

#2 – The existence of the iPhone 8

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This is perhaps the single big reason why the X isn’t racking up chart-topping numbers. Alongside the X were a pair of iPhones which shared their basic design with their predecessors but with a glass back and many of the new features on the iPhone X such as the A11 Bionic processor and upgraded main camera (FaceID, improved secondary camera and Animoji are exclusive on the X however) at a lower price while retaining features like TouchID. Adding to these woes are the existence of the iPhone 7 and the older-still iPhone 6s, both of which are still plenty capable in this day and age. For a number of folks, the iPhone 8 may be the iPhone they wanted, especially those who wanted a more familiar design or simply 9/10ths of what the iPhone X has but cheaper and with more storage for less than a base-model iPhone X. In essence, the iPhone 8 may have cannibalized a portion of the iPhone X’s potential sales, although one could argue that its existence was necessary to cater to those who want most of the new tech in a familiar shell.

#3 – Android rivals

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Same thing every year. Apple always has some sort of competition from the Googs and this year, things are no different. Samsung is the frontrunner with its Galaxy S8 and Note8 line, which bring the same high-quality construction and near-bezelless design (without a notch) with extra features that some may find appealing. Google’s Pixel 2 XL may not be as catchy to the eye but it does bring a superb camera and software performance that some may argue performs better than the iPhone despite the monstrous performance of Apple’s excellent A11 (most of that is attributed to the broken nature of iOS 11). Essential’s PH-1 may not have quite the same performance as a Pixel despite running stock Android, nor does it have a camera worthy of a flagship, but for $449, it packs high-end specs and an exquisite exterior design that goes head-to-head with Apple’s for a lot less. And it has a notch as well, if you’re into that.

#4 – #Batterygate

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Ah yes, Apple’s battery fiasco. While the ongoing fiasco regarding Apple throttling older iPhones based on battery health does not affect any of the current iPhones as of this time, the sensational headlines and widespread nature of news like this can give some future iPhone buyers pause. While Apple has claimed that the iPhone 8 and X won’t be as susceptible, buyers may still have second thoughts before pulling the trigger. This one is lower down the list since it probably doesn’t have as big of an impact as it occurred a while after the X went on sale.

Apple’s iPhone X isn’t a bad phone by any means and the product itself isn’t the sole and major reason of why it isn’t selling as well as analysts had hoped. Instead, it’s a combination of internal and external factors which worked against the sales of the X and unless a major change happens, demand will likely remain near-flat.

Axing the iPhone X?

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This one is a bit more dramatic. News reports are claiming that Apple may discontinue the iPhone X just after a year of being on the market. Normally, Apple will keep selling the older model as a lower-end variant when its successors arrive, so this can be seen as a surprise to some.

The reason is claimed to be lower-than-expected sales figures for the X, and while that could play a role in the X being axed earlier than usual for iPhones, I think the real reason is something different.

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Apple is rumored to be unveiling 3 new iPhones later this year in Q3 2018. They will all share a similar design to the iPhone X but with key differences such as screen-size and type. Given that these new iPhones may share the same design, having a fourth one which looks the same just doesn’t make a whole heap of sense. Remember when I said that one of the reasons the iPhone X isn’t selling as well as analysts had hoped was due to the existence of the iPhone 8 and others? This is precisely why. The iPhone line has overgrown and to avoid different models cannibalizing sales of each other, Apple would have to trim down their lines for specific market segments. In a way, axing the X would make sense, but I would ask Apple to keep the 8 as the option for those who want more familiarity and keep the SE as an option for those who want a truly small device.

It’s also worth noting that this won’t be the first time Apple has axed an iPhone after just a year on shelves. The original iPhone was discontinued shortly after the iPhone 3G went on sale, and the iPhone 5 was discontinued after just over a year as well, replaced by the “unapologetically plastic” iPhone 5C, which garnered a mixed reception.

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The iPhone X conundrum

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