Although Apple has managed an unscheduled iPhone upgrade with a classy iPhone XS update, now serious problems are affecting its smartphones…
The first is acclaimed analyst Gartner, which has today disclosed iPhone sales for the 2018 year end period suffered their most severe decline in more than three years. Gartner said that Apple sold 64M iPhones, down nine million on Quarter 4 of 2017. The company also fell from 17.9% to 15.8% in world market share while Chinese rivals rose – most notably Huawei which leapt from 10.8% to 14.8%.
Gartner warned Apple it is not only being attacked by “compelling high-price and midprice smartphone alternatives from Chinese vendors” but US buyers who are “delaying upgrades as they wait for more innovative smartphones.”
And innovation is the key theme. Today Fast Company illustrated Gartner’s statement with the publication of its famous annual rankings for the world’s most creative companies. Apple slipped from 1st place to 17th.
And yet the more stark and present threat comes from Qualcomm.
Discusding with Reuters, Qualcomm stated that it is presently pursuing a ban on iPhone sales in the US due to patent infringements. Last week Qualcomm scored a sales injunction on both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 in Germany so the move has precedent. Apple only escaped 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,” said 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 situations highlight a reduction in Apple’s iPhone innovation, it is difficult to see any immediate response. While Samsung radically transformed 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 choices 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 slashes 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 sufficient.