Counterpoint Research: iPhone XR was Apple’s bestseller amid falling sales

Philip Elmer-DeWitt

From Overall iPhone Sales Down 20% YoY In November; iPhone XR Became the Best-Selling Model:

  • Sale of new iPhones (XR/XS/XS MAX) launched in November were down over 20% YoY compared to last year’s launches (8/8 Plus/X).
  • The iPhone XR series outsold XS and XS Max series, iPhone XR 64 GB became the best-selling iPhone during the month.
  • iPhone XR sales, when compared to iPhone 8, were down 5%, both being the cheapest new iPhone available during the month of their respective launches.
  • Similarly, iPhone XS, when compared to iPhone 8 Plus, was up 3% YoY. iPhone XS Max, when compared to iPhone X during the same month last year, shows a 46% decline in sales. However, cumulative sales of iPhone XS Max were 50% higher till November than that of iPhone X last year due to the early availability of the higher priced models this year.
  • We estimate iPhone XR to further eat into the share of higher-priced iPhone XS and XS Max during December 2018.
  • Sales in China during November were steady due to the popular 11.11 (Single’s Day) sales. Even then, sales of iPhone XR remained lower than expected due to a lack of innovative features and just one camera. And while it’s the cheapest new iPhone, it still is expensive compared to local competitor products.
  • China iPhone sales in December will be down partly due to the ongoing trade war between US-China and Chinese companies encouraging employees to buy smartphones from Chinese OEMs.
  • We are also expecting an increase in sales of older iPhone models like iPhone 8 and iPhone 7 in emerging markets due to the high price of newer models.

Cue the bar chart:

counterpoint iphone xr bestseller

My take: Apple SVP Greg Joswiak leaked the iPhone XR November sales news to reporters nearly six weeks ago, but didn’t say anything about overall iPhone sales. Apple must have suspected by then that they were going to have issue new guidance. Why did they wait until the new year to tell investors?