Engadget: Apple isn’t really killing the iPhone X
When KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo pens a research note, it’s not just his clients who tear into the results — the tech community does too, because of his almost uncanny track record with Apple predictions. A recent note of his begat a series of unfortunate headlines though. Depending on who you read, the iPhone X could be scrapped or killed or cancelled suddenly, as though Apple — utterly disheartened by theoretically lackluster sales — simply decided to call it quits.
These headlines feel needlessly sensational, but they speak to a market reality rooted in rationality. Aside from a handful of analyst estimates, we don’t know how many iPhone Xs Apple has sold. The company doesn’t break out sales by iPhone model, though we’ll learn more about iPhone sales overall in its earnings report next week. The general consensus is that the X sales, while not terrible, fell short of expectations. Let’s put these sales forecasts aside — what’s done is done. If Apple does discontinue the existing iPhone X (which seems more than possible), it’ll have more to do with future sales than past ones.
The most recent knells of doom have been painting iPhone X as some kind of disaster for Apple (despite Apple’s own claims that it has been the best selling iPhone model since its introduction). The most recent evidence of this failure come in the form of reports that Apple will be discontinuing iPhone X after one year — something they’ve never done before! Except for the original iPhone, the iPhone 5C, various iPod models, and more. Some of those unexpectedly discontinued products were even quite successful.
If I were to make some unsubstantiated guesses, I’d largely agree with this Engadget article. Here’s where I think Apple may be going and why.
iPhone X Lives On Without the Name
The iPhone X will be discontinued but its features will live on. If indeed iPhone X is the future of iPhone and its features move to other models next year, there’s no need for iPhone X to continue unless Apple plans to keep it as the “experimental” phone. But do we need a new experiment every year? I believe the iPhone X name will go away, but only because most of Apple’s phones next year will essentially be iPhone Xs.
iPhones Get Rebranded
I suspect a branding change is coming for iPhone. Last year, Apple introduced iPhone 8 and iPhone X, and that X is pronounced ten. The current models are versions 8 and 10, so what do you call this year’s phones? iPhone 9 sounds like a step back, and iPhone 11 leaves Apple in the weird predicament of simply skipping a number. iPhone 9 and iPhone X-2? Now we’re getting into Final Fantasy numbering.
Instead, I expect this year’s phones will follow iPad naming conventions and drop the numbers entirely, or Apple may announce they are dropping the iPhone name in favor of Apple Phone, which would align with other recent products. Where Apple’s hardware used to be brimming with lowercase i‘s, now iPhone, iPad, and iMac are the holdouts. (There’s also the neglected iPod touch, but that seems largely abandoned.)
When iPhone X came out, I tweeted that I didn’t expect it to sell as well as iPhone 8, and I was obviously wrong. But I believe my reasoning behind the tweet is still valid. Apple never looked at iPhone X as a long-term product. They set it next to their traditional iPhone lineup instead of in it. iPhone X was never meant to last as a product, but it is supposed to last as a foundation for iPhones to come. It’s a long-term strategy embodied in a short-term product.
iPhone X changed what we expect from Apple’s phones. Its mere existence gets Apple’s customers ready for a change in how they interact with their devices. Regardless of how many iPhone X units sell, the device has succeeded. The only way iPhone X fails is if Apple’s new phones reject the progress it represents. iPhone X may get discontinued as a product and a name, but its influence will live on.