iPhone fever down but sales on the up

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Thirteen million iPhone 6s and 6s Plus sold out in two days as Chinese market helps maintain records

Apple announced global sales of more than 13 million iPhone 6s and 6s Plus handsets during its first weekend – a new record for the company – but it appears the usual excitement surrounding its launches may have run its course.

A year ago, Mobile News witnessed chaotic scenes outside Apple’s Regent Street stores, as more than 2,000 people queued, many overnight to get their hands on the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

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This time around, with the store again opening at the earlier time of 8am, numbers barely reached 400, with many launch regulars in the crowd suggesting the Apple bubble, while not yet burst, is showing signs of deflation.

Mo Ali, from London, blamed the devices’ lack of new features for the poorer than expected turnout. “Apple haven’t made any major improvements since the iPhone 6 – it’s the same stuff,” he said.

Others suggested it was due to new queuing systems. This meant customers that pre-ordered were guaranteed their devices, rather than the ‘first come first served’ method deployed on all previous models.

Not what they seem
At a glance, Apple’s opening weekend figures would certainly suggest the iPhone is on track to match, if not surpass anything achieved before, with opening weekend numbers up three million year on year.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, as expected, declared that sales for iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus have been “phenomenal” and “blown past” any previous first weekend sales results in Apple’s history.

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However, dig a little deeper and the results – for opening weekend at least – may not be quite so rosy.

Last year, the iPhone was available in 10 countries from day one, accounting for 10 million sales in the opening weekend.

This time around, the iPhone was launched in 12 countries, adding Hong Kong and mainland China – the world’s fastest growing markets for mobile connectivity. Operators China Mobile and China Unicom alone have a base of over 430 million customers. There are over 1.3 billion mobile users (including 2G) in total across China.

China in your hand
Reports suggest up to 30 per cent of those sales came from China – the world’s biggest and fastest growing mobile market – after Apple decided to make the device available at launch in the country for the first time.

Shares at Apple also fell by $1.41 to $113.25 (a 1.3 per cent fall), with Wall Street having predicted sales of more than 14 million.

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Creative Strategies principal analyst Ben Bajarin said: “The Street was hoping for 14-15 million. They know without China’s iPhone sales its numbers would have been flat. My initial estimates were China could add three to four million units, and I think that was about right.”

Discussing the numbers, Daniel Ives of US banking market analyst’s FBR Capital Markets said: “This is not apples to apples as China pre-sales/launch were not included in the year-ago number. We estimate China sales during the 6s launch weekend of roughly 2-2.5 million, driven by exceptionally strong pre-order demand.”

By the end of 2015, the iPhone will be available in 130 markets. The manufacturer’s Q1 results (ending December 31) will provide a more accurate reading.

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Customer loyalty
Regardless of sales reaching, or even surpassing, previous models, Apple still showed it has the brand power and support of its loyal customers like no other.

Mobile News spoke to those in the crowd asking their views on the latest device, features they were most excited about and why they spent hours in the cold to get their hands on one.

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