While Apple AAPL -0.56% may have balanced one unplanned iPhone upgrade with a stylish iPhone XS update, now serious problems are hitting its smartphones from all angles…
Apple’s iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XRAPPLE
First up is acclaimed analyst Gartner, which has today revealed iPhone sales for the 2018 holiday period suffered their worst decline in more than three years. Gartner states that Apple sold 64M iPhones, down nine million on Q4 2017. The company also fell from 17.9% to 15.8% in global market share while Chinese rivals climbed – most notably Huawei which leapt from 10.8% to 14.8%.
Gartner warned Apple it is not only being hit by “compelling high-price and midprice smartphone alternatives from Chinese vendors” but loyal buyers who are “delaying upgrades as they wait for more innovative smartphones.”
And innovation is the key theme. Today Fast Company illustrated Gartner’s point with the publication of its popular annual rankings for the world’s most innovative companies. Apple slipped from 1st place to 17th.
And yet the more clear and present danger comes from Qualcomm.
Left to right: iPhone 8, iPhone 7, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6APPLE
Speaking to Reuters, Qualcomm said it is now pursuing a ban on iPhone sales in the US due to patent infringements. Last week Qualcomm won a sales injunction on both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 in Germany so the move has precedent. Apple only circumvented the ruling by agreeing to ship these models with Qualcomm hardware.
“Apple said that it would need six months to verify that the fix will satisfy regulators and to sell its existing [infringing] inventory,” reports Reuters. “Apple asked the full commission to delay any possible import ban by that long if the commission reverses the judge’s decisions.”
While all three developments highlight a reduction in Apple’s iPhone innovation, it is hard to see any immediate response. While Samsung radically overhauled its Galaxy range yesterday, Apple’s 2019 iPhones will not only look identical for the third year in a row, they will stick with Lighting and slow chargers in the box. Both decisions which already see the range isolated against the competition.
Needless to say, there’s a lot of love about Apple’s sleek ecosystem across Macs, MacBooks, iPads and iPhones. But while the company’s promotional price cuts are a welcome short term solution, I suspect most Apple fans would rather simply see the company back to its innovative best. Exciting patents are no longer enough…