By Brian Zhao
(Image: creative common license)
Has Apple fallen from grace? Despite Apple’s fanbase being notoriously loyal, the iPhone 14 Plus model has greatly underperformed in terms of its sales numbers as compared to its much higher expectations. In October 2022, The Information reported that Apple has currently paused production of the iPhone 14 Plus despite it only being on sale for less than two weeks due to having to reassess demand for the smartphone. Specifically, Apple’s supply chain partners have cut iPhone 14 Plus production by 40% according to Digitimes.
So, why hasn’t the iPhone 14 Plus been successful with customers?
This model of the iPhone 14 falls short for numerous reasons. One being that while it is a more budget-friendly larger version of the standard model, it is still relatively expensive for essentially just a larger screen and slightly longer battery life as compared to the iPhone 14 Pro, minus all of its other perks.
Furthermore, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 series launched smaller models —the iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 13 Mini. However, Apple developed the belief that a larger counterpart would result in better sales. This was a crucial mistake on their end, as the nuanced size of the minis allowed Apple to attain a niche position in the market. The portable size of the minis along with its up-to-standard performance increased the desire for it not just among other iPhones, but in the entire smartphone market as well.
This is not the case for Apple’s larger models, as there are many smartphones in the market with 6.7” screens that are sold at much lower prices. In addition, the iPhone 14 Pro models feature a 48MP camera sensor, A16 processor, and the Dynamic Island, all of which are lacking from the iPhone 14 Plus. Therefore, there essentially is no real selling point that the Plus model has to offer.
Because two suppliers for the model have lowered its production of the Plus model by 70% and 90% respectively, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo goes on to say that “Apple’s product segmentation strategy for standard models fails this year.”
However, Apple may not be solely to blame for this dramatic downturn in demand. The decline of interest in each year’s new lineup of iPhones may be partially attributed to a general loss of interest in the smartphone industry over the years. For example, the World Economic Forum reported that “market saturation and lack of real innovation have led to declining sales for the past few years,” and that “while the market did return to positive growth in Q4 2020 and carried that momentum through the first half of 2021, it remains doubtful if smartphone shipments will ever return to the level reached in 2016.” Back then, the industry peaked at a total of 1,473 million smartphone devices shipped. But by 2020, shipments decreased to 1,292 million units, the lowest since 2013.
Additionally, the International Data Corporation reported that the year-to-year growth of Apple smartphones have dropped about 75% since 2010.
In spite of this annual decline, some market researchers at IDC still believe that Apple can regain its past glory, and some even say that the company has yet to reach its prime in the smartphone industry. This prediction is predominantly due to the transition to 5G which will greatly increase network speeds, causing the projected growth rate to reach a total of about 1,500 million smartphones shipped in 2025.
Nonetheless, the iPhone 14 Plus is still a distinguished handset in the market as it still outperformed the majority of its competitors mostly due to people’s consciousness of gaining status from the brand name itself. Thus, the continued success of Apple’s prominence in the smartphone industry will largely depend on the robustness of this loyalty.