updated 06:05 pm EDT, Tue October 18, 2011
iPhone sales sink in Q3 2011 as share shifts
Apple in its latest results revealed a rare if minor disappointment in its iPhone shipments that could see it drop its lead in smartphones for a quarter but a possible record in the next. The company's 17.07 million iPhones were a 21 percent climb over last summer but were a 16 percent drop from where they were in the spring. No explanation was given for the sequential drop, although it likely reflects some customers holding off ahead of the iPhone 4S, which just shipped last week.
The drop had been partly expected. Historically, Apple has usually seen iPhone sales level off or decline right before a new model arrives, either in the quarter just before or in the same quarter if it launches towards the end. Many analysts had interpreted the iPhone 4's ability to avoid seasonal slumps as a possible sign that Apple would break the pattern for the upgrade cycle as well.
A summer decline won't necessarily be a major setback for Apple. The company during its results call said it had expected a decline and pinned it on "speculation" as customers saw the plans for iOS 5 in the fall as a cue to wait for a new iPhone. CEO Tim Cook promised that it would bounce back and expected Apple to set an "all-time" record for sales in the fall now that the iPhone 4S was available.
It still comes as Samsung was optimistic about its performance for its summer results, owed mostly to smartphones. The Korean firm has seen much faster growth from the Galaxy S II than its predecessor and is still in mid-cycle, with no expectation of a replacement until early to mid 2012.
Apple may have the advantage of timing for the fall, since its iPhone 4S debut came just as Samsung was releasing the Galaxy S II in the US. New iPhones have typically overshadowed other product launches, and Sprint has become an iPhone carrier for the first time, eliminating a safe haven that Samsung has often used in the US for phones like the Epic 4G.