Four letter words: This year’s flop

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When writing about Apple, it’s always important to find the fail first and lead with that.

Writing for The Motley Fool, Ashraf Eassa says “Apple’s iPhone XS Looks Like a Flop in the United States.” (Tip o’ the antlers to Mickey.)

Over the course of fiscal 2018, Apple’s iPhone X proved to be a successful product.

It was! And, yet, here’s Eassa’s colleague at The Motley Fool, Evan Niu, all the way back in November of 2017:

With daily reports detailing iPhone X production challenges, the all-important new flagship looks more and more like it will be a flop.

There’s that word again. But this all just goes along with The Motley Fool credo: measure no times, cut as fast as you can.

It would seem, though, that its direct successor isn’t anywhere near as successful.

By which Eassa means the iPhone XS. The XS Max, of course, is doing very well by the numbers that Eassa quotes. By the way, what are the numbers Eassa quotes?

…according to new data from CIRP, which shows the mix of iPhone shipments in the United States by model during the fourth quarter of 2018, the device looks like a total flop.

Patented pundit trick: if you use the word a lot, it must be true.

CIRP provides the relative percentages of iPhones sold based on a “survey of 500 US Apple customers that purchased an iPhone, iPad, Mac computer, or Apple Watch in the October-December 2018 period.” So, they surveyed 500 people, many of whom did not even buy an iPhone, and found that not many of them bought an iPhone XS. So it must be a flop.

Other than the sample, the obvious problem is that they’re only speculating about relative percentages. Based on Apple’s revised guidance for the December quarter, it’s very unlikely iPhone sales grew in the U.S., even if most of the company’s troubles were in China.

But if we take this survey at face value—which you can do but, full warning, it may cause you to be visited by the angry ghost of noted statistician Florence Nightingale and look at that picture of her, you do not want that—it’s certainly not surprising that the iPhone XR and iPhone XS Max are selling better than the iPhone XS since they’re both new devices. It might be slightly surprising that both models of the iPhone 8 are selling better than the iPhones XS, but if you’re in the market for a new iPhone this cycle, you’d be hard pressed not to buy the iPhone XR. And the people buying the iPhone 8 are not in the market for a new iPhone.

None of this means the iPhone XS is a “flop.” It just means it fills a slot in the iPhone lineup that wasn’t destined to be as popular this year. And none of this speaks to the overall number of units Apple sold.

Ultimately we are left with one question: can Apple survive some of its iPhones models doing better than other iPhones models? Only time will tell.

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