Is X > 8? Solving Apple’s iPhone sales equation

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Enlarge / The display dominates the iPhone X.

The iPhone 8 saw Apple’s weakest new phone sales in years, while iPhone X demand outstripped supply within minutes of the start of pre-orders last night. It would be easy to conclude that an underwhelming iPhone 8 has been ignored by consumers in favor of a much more exciting iPhone X, but it’s actually not that simple.

Apple’s online store now shows new pre-orders of all iPhone X SKUs shipping in 5-6 weeks in the US—more than a month after launch day. Generally, iPhone 8 pre-order shipments didn’t get backed up that far. Apple also said consumer demand for the X was “off the charts” in a statement after launch day units sold out within 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, market research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners told The Wall Street Journal that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus only accounted for 16 percent of iPhone sales in the September quarter, compared to 43 percent for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus last year. The iPhone 8 models constituted 2.4 percent of iPhones in use one month after shipments began—predecessors managed more than twice that share in the same time period. A survey of carrier stores showed the cheaper iPhone 7 outselling the iPhone 8 in the US and UK, though customers who shop at carrier stores may generally have different preferences than those who buy their phones directly from Apple or from other types of retailers.

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