Apple outgrew unit sales

“In 2014, Apple management surprised many by announcing they were not going to disclose Apple Watch unit sales once the product went on sale the following year. The decision was interpreted by many outsiders as Apple not thinking too highly of Watch’s prospects. As it turned out, nothing could have been further from the truth,” Neil Cybart writes for Above Avalon. “Apple’s Watch disclosure decision ended up foreshadowing management’s recent announcement that it will no longer disclose iPhone, iPad, or Mac unit sales. While a number of factors are behind Apple’s decision, the simplest explanation for the disclosure change is that Apple outgrew unit sales.”

“Apple management’s decision to no longer disclose unit sales makes plenty of sense. In recent years, it was becoming increasingly clear that unit sales weren’t as useful of a metric for analyzing Apple’s business now as it had been in the past,” Cybart writes. “The primary problem found with unit sales was how the data provided a limited look inside the Apple machine.”

Consider the following items:

• Despite iPhone unit sales being mostly flat for the past three years, Apple expanded the iPhone installed base by nearly 300M users.

• Despite annual iPad unit sales contracting by 40% from the sales peak in 2013, Apple was able to expand the iPad installed base by more than 120M users over the same time period.

• Despite Mac unit sales trending flat, Apple has been able to add approximately 10M new people to the Mac installed base each year.

“Unit sales became a crutch for financial analysts,” Cybart writes. “The quarterly numbers were telling us less about Apple’s business and were instead providing a false sense of security to outsiders. As it turned out, unit sales were painting a less attractive picture of Apple’s business fundamentals.”

Much more in the full article – highly recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: In the full article, Cybart distills Apple’s decisions to its essence, “Management is painting a new long-term blueprint for how it wants Wall Street to judge Apple: revenue and margins.”

How long this will take Wall Street to absorb is the question.

Pity the pro analysts who were repeated told by Apple to… stop relying on the unit sales crutch. Failing that, Apple simply pulled the crutch away. Walk on your own, Apple analysts! — MacDailyNews, November 2, 2018

Morgan Stanley: Apple’s services will grow to over $100 billion per year in 2023 – November 8, 2018
Apple’s focus is not iPhone market share, it’s on dominating the higher end of its markets – November 3, 2018
Apple’s iPhone just had its best year ever – November 3, 2018
Why Apple’s unit sales reporting doesn’t matter anymore – November 2, 2018
The ‘smart money’ shrugs off Apple’s decision to no longer disclose unit sales – November 2, 2018
Apple rams their message home: Think ‘Apple as a Service’ – November 2, 2018
Investors bristle as Apple occludes iPhone unit sales data – November 2, 2018
Apple’s decision to stop reporting unit sales of iPhones, Macs, and iPads is a ‘defining moment’ – November 2, 2018
Apple to stop reporting iPhone, Mac, and iPad quarterly unit sales – November 1, 2018
Apple beats Street with another record-breaking quarter – November 1, 2018


    1. Many people aside from myself deliver brutal and savage beatings to Pipline here at MDN. Very often it is MDN itself tearing Pipeline a new one. I have been very very pleased seeing how many here rip Pipeline hard and often.

      Pipeline deserves every last insult that he receives.

      Pipeline has done nothing to advance Apple’s position in the tech world. He’s simply mailing it in.

      Pipeline leaves Mac hardware unupdated until it is a joke.

      Pipeline has done nothing to improve macOS.

      Pipeline has rendered iOS a joke.

      Article after article says that the iPad is held back the inabilities of iOS. This is the fault of Pipeline.

      Apple used to drive forward innovation at an incredible rate. That stopped the moment Pipeline became CEO.

      Pipeline would rather charge higher prices for RAM and SSD’s than innovate.

      Pipeline would rather solder in pieces to the Mac than innovate.

      Pipeline is Steve Jobs’ greatest failure.

        1. No he’s not. Apple has demonstrable failures, some cataclysmic and short sighted. Unfathomable really to which you can only ascribe basic incompetence or lack of vision.

          The only reason Mac sales are flat are because Apple has not shown it’s commitment to Macs with timely & yearly upgrades and machines people want to buy.

          It’s the fool who truly puts his head fully in the Cook sand. Phobic means fear and no one fears Cook except the fear of what his lack of exceptional leadership might do to Apple and HAS been doing to Apple. I have never in all my years of Apple association seen so much discontent from others and myself. Cook’s Apple is not the Apple I knew.

          Priorities from Apple should NEVER be as pronounced as they have been when it would be easy with their nearly unlimited resources to delight customers with their complete device line and a clear path to users and pros.

          Try and educate yourself on the reasons why people are so disenchanted instead of looking dead wrong and more than a bit silly. It’s not just an iPhone world.

            1. I’ve owned Macs exclusively since 1992 to present. Clearly.

              The years post Jobs before his return were dark as well. But at least they were putting out regular product. Early Macs crashed often before OS X came along. But I absolutely adored my first Mac – a Powerbook 170.

              I stand by my feeling discontent has never been higher mainly because now it’s a much superior computer product, the potential is there, Macs are more desirable than ever and they can do so much better by it, but only if they choose to.

      1. Ishkabibble Von Tink references “many people” in his assertions. I am familiar with another person who likes to justify his actions and statements by saying that “many people” agree or feel a certain way, as if he has some magic connection to the masses.

        You can gripe all you want, Von Tink, but “many people” disagree with you.

        1. Of course you can’t disagree with actual facts that countermand and supersede mere opinion. Inaction or incredibly slow response on Cook & Apple’s part has created a situation where people feel the way IVT does. And he is not alone. Magic notwithstanding.

      1. Specious Straw Man argument for what is corporate incompetence that ignores the problem. Even if none of us aren’t qualified to run Apple (debatable) there are those who can and better understand Business 101 of keeping all product lines current and monetizing wherever possible. Not to mention keeping your customer base happy and delighted.

    2. Defensive pipeline posts such as yours do nothing to change the facts. I concur with fellow Apple fans like Peter, Von, Fesarius and many others that call it exactly like it is.

      The phony fanboys like Melvin that post nothing but rainbows and lollipops look the other way at missteps and never have a constructive comment or see anything wrong. 100% defense as Apple apologists is not only wrong it is unhealthy and borders on mental illness. They have nothing left but attack those who disagree. Their lack of understanding and maturity speaks volumes…

  1. Unit sales strikes me as a lazy way to gauge the success of a company. If the average selling price goes up maybe people will upgrade less often, but if those delayed sales are being offset somewhat by entirely new customers then the sales figure might not be increasing year on year, but eventually they’ll go up, plus ancillary things like services will increase.

    1. The one example that beautiful puts Pipeline’s epic failures into crystal clarity is this: You cannot plug an iPhone into a Mac today without a dongle. That miserable kludge would have been unthinkable with Steve Jobs’ Apple. The iPhone today can plug straight into a PC but not a Mac. One has to have a fscking dongle.

      That, in a nutshell, shows the utter contempt Pipeline has for Mac users.

      That, in a nutshell, shows how utterly miserable Pipeline’s “leadership is”.

      Pipeline is ruining Apple. Slowly, but certainly Apple is rotting to the core under Pipeline.

      Pipeline has no ability to recognize dead weight at Apple. No one at all can explain why Eddy Cue has a job. No one. That is the fault of Pipeline.

      Apple’s top designer is making perfect door knobs and diamond rings. Meanwhile Mac Pro users are nearly 5 years into their wait for an upgrade. That is the fault of Pipeline.

      Pipeline shows nothing but contempt for Mac Pro users.

      Pipeline’s contempt shows up in Apple hardware.

      Pipeline’s contempt shows up in Apple software.

      Words are not capable of expressing, truly expressing, my contempt for Pipeline.

      He has utterly ruined Apple.

      1. You can sure use some Xanax Von. Too panicky.

        You can make your points in more civil and calm manner without resorting to constant bashing and insults.. makes you look childish.

        Lots of things use dongles in Apple ecosys now a days..
        So singling out one specific aspect of it and making it a case in point is actually limiting the scope of the issue… an issue i don’t like either and have written about since the get go.
        (But i admit as much as i don’t like some of their approachs… i am also not aware of what Apples long term vision is. I can only talk about what i envision. I already suspect the answer to this, by some, is going to be : there is no vision…🤦‍♂️)

        No doubt there are issues at Apple …and how Macs were treated truly perplexing.
        This issue has been discussed for a long long time and very firmly both by me (directly with Apple and forums) as well many others!

        Then about a year ago or so, Apple responded through a news conference, sitting down with some reporters and discussing their new MacPro initiative, and Apple displays.
        Tim later reaffirmed the importance of Macs and Mac mini.

        Since then ( only 1 year or so ) Apple has delivered the:
        -iMac Pros .. awesome and powerful all in ones!
        -Upgraded the iMacs.
        -Released a super powerful Mac Mini!
        and according to their commitment
        -Will release the MacPro Modular and Apple displays in 2019🤞.
        ( yes they are expensive.. but Apple has always been expensive and that is another topic)

        So in a nutshell Apple admitted to dropping the ball and immediately reacted.
        Yet here you are, neglecting all that and constantly bashing and name calling.
        Yes the Mac issue has been perplexing , it dragged on… bafflingly so ! .. but there was an acknowledgment and a corrective reaction .
        Could Apple have done ‘better’ financially had they not made this mistake.. sure.. but i have absolutely no complaints about Apples financial success to start with.. it would be crazy to complain about that.
        Maybe in light of slowing phone growth .. focus on macs will be an area of further growth down the line.. which will be a good thing.

        Von and the concerned..Things will never be perfect for your or every single individual’s liking in ever aspect, never….. and they were not when Jobs was around either.

        I think, for ‘some ’ part, big though , issues leading to these bashings , i repeat ‘some’ , not all …..come from lack of ability to fathom what it takes to operate a company the size of Apple and number of units involved…… the lack of insight and appreciation for complexities of progress and changes that need to be implemented and adopted accordingly, the long term initiatives and the logistical complexities involved..All at incredible scales Apple is operating at.
        We are not talking about a mom and pop operation here with a few million in revenues.

        Also; this constant comparison to Jobs is truly pointless and getting old.. ( Jobs wouldn’t have this and wouldn’t have that …etc .. ). These are unverifiable comments and they stem from passion nothing else. Nobody has the answer to or knows what he would have done…

        Apple today and Apple when Jobs was at helm with help from Tim i might add, is completely a different animal at a complete different scale and complexity.
        Comparisons of then and now are naive and misguided.. and what Jobs would have done or would not have pure speculation , nothing more. ( he was not perfect, not at Apple not at Next nor as a person )

        That said.. are there issues.. yes..
        Is there going to be a day when there are no issues, No ( ummm … maybe yes when one is six feet under )
        Is name calling and bashing and panicing the answer . No.
        Is civily and maturely debating the issues a healthier approach ..Yes

        1. Von is spot on and I do not detect panic or “bashing.” It’s OK, we can agree to disagree on that one.

          Refreshing constructive criticism is a much needed dose of reality in everyday lives. It’s what parents constantly use to assess children and apply lessons learned to improve their lives.

          Pipeline in my opinion has done more to hold Apple BACK than improve the company. Killing popular products, lack of regular Mac updates, expensive dongle hell, too thin thermal issues, outrageous SSD pricing and ALL can be bought for the highest prices in history. See Von’s detailed post for much more. You don’t see it?

          Hope you’re right on the Mac Pro and monitors…

          1. You beat me to it Von is correct.
            sales means everything and so does increased market share and innovation.

            honestly, what ecosphere? Where are the individual parts improving?

            Itunes should have a YouTube-style component.. How does Apple who wants to be about content and services not have a place to watch music videos let alone any user created videos? Music and more?
            Isn’t it a concern that my kids, 8 thru 12 years old have NO reason to sign on to Itunes and would never, rather than go straight to YouTube?

            If you have Siri which everyone knows sucks, why not improve it, and go into search, like Duck duck go at very least? Why cant we access SIRI via a website or in print? via Maps and more? Just copy Google, and see their stock price plummet. Get into paid ads, why not?

            Why not just buy Adobe or some program companies that have state of the art apps.

            Name an “killer app” that Apple has come up with in the last ten years that is a must-have..

            How do you look shareholders in the eye and be comfortable with Apples miserable market share with every product they produce,

            Don’t tell me that a Unit sales has peaked when market share is so low in every department, usually 10 percent. Start selling.

            1. JR, many interesting points and suggestions for Apple.

              Yes, kids have no use for iTunes and go straight to YouTube. Siri first out of the gate and now dead last in performance. They have the money to buy Duck duck go, but that would probably end the $12 million or is it billion annual payment from Google for default position on Apple products. They could sell ads to cover the lost revenue, but have not seen iAds in awhile. When they killed Aperture, buying Adobe certainly would have made sense cornering the professional graphics software market. All these ventures require expenditures and daily commitment to make them work, highly doubtful watching Apple lately.

              “Name an “killer app” that Apple has come up with in the last ten years that is a must-have.” Easy, killer 3D talking emojis. 😆

              Yes, “miserable market share” has plenty of room to grow. Then again, look at the prices that are holding back purchases in emerging nations, flyover country and folks not replacing as often. The priorities are adrift…

  2. Yet another instance where the MDN article link ends up linking to itself. Geez, MDN—it’s just a matter of copying and pasting the correct URL into the right field on your CMS! It seems like every other article suffers from recursive links. It shouldn’t be that hard to double-check to make your own links work. sigh

  3. Great take by the author exactly what he outlines has occurred on here lately when a few contributors/trolls take your pick ludicrously tried to claim flat sales inevitably meant ongoing decline foe Apple. Time and again I pointed out that the user base is still growing and would do unless a very large decline in sales occurred of which there is no sign. As services increase exponentially therefore profits will continue to increase and as services both encourage new sales and have hardly been touched so far will likely increase profits at for the foreseeable future at least ,ever increasing rates. Unit numbers are becoming increasingly of minor importance and less so year by year so as some are addicted to them, in particular those with ill intent, it’s absolutely right individual unit numbers are not reported… Just like most of their competitors by the way.

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