Neil Cybart: 921 million iPhones in the wild as of Mar. 30, 2019

Print Email

On Thursday, one of best trackers of Apple unit sales showed his math.

 

“It’s important to note that that the majority of iPhone sales occur outside of Apple’s direct distribution channel.” — Cybart, Above Avalon ($)

My iPhone installed base estimate is derived from tracking iPhone users by the year they bought their first iPhone. The exercise involves estimating how each bucket of users (2007 through 2019 with each year representing a different bucket) upgrade their iPhones over time. This allows granularity in terms of running with different upgrade patterns dependent on the user.

The following are my estimates for the number of iPhones sold to upgraders over the past five years:
    • 2014: 70M (35% growth)
    • 2015: 111M (59% growth)
    • 2016: 83M (25% decline)
    • 2017: 117M (41% growth)
    • 2018: 150M (28% growth)
    • 1H19: 82M (12% decline vs. 1H18)
The following are my estimates for the number of people who bought their first new iPhone direct from Apple or a third-party retailer over the past five years:
    • 2014: 99M (1% growth)
    • 2015: 120M (21% growth)
    • 2016: 129M (8% growth)
    • 2017: 100M (22% decline)
    • 2018: 68M (32% decline)
    • 1H19: 25M (32% decline vs. 1H18)
Taking the number of new people officially entering the iPhone installed base (we still have to consider people entering the iPhone installed base via the gray market) and then adding a 11% churn factor, slightly higher than my previous 9% estimate, we can calculate the number of people who bought their first new iPhone direct from Apple or a third-party retailer on a cumulative basis over time.
    • 2008: 11M users
    • 2009: 28M
    • 2010: 55M
    • 2011: 99M
    • 2012: 177M
    • 2013: 264M
    • 2014: 353M
    • 2015: 460M
    • 2016: 575M
    • 2017: 664M
    • 2018: 725M
    • 2Q19: 751M (as of March 30th, 2019)
Here are my estimates for the number of iPhones in use that have passed through the gray market going back to late 2017:
    • December 2017: 154M iPhones
    • May 2018: 159M
    • August 2018: 162M
    • December 2018: 165M
    • March 2019: 170M

Adding the 170M iPhones in use that have passed through the gray market to the 751M total from up above gives us an iPhone installed base of 921M (as of March 30th, 2019).

My take: No one does this better — or more transparently — than Neil Cybart. If you subscribe to his newsletter, perhaps he’ll forgive me for stepping over the limits of fair use.

See also: