Is the threat of U.S. tariffs making Apple’s iPhone demand look better than it actually is?

Tae Kim for Barron’s:

On Tuesday, KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst John Vinh said positive signals coming from Asian suppliers of iPhone parts may be due to preparation for tariffs that could take effect in December, rather than better demand trends.

“It remains unclear to us whether the increased demand from the supply chain is end-demand-driven as our latest carrier survey results continue to indicate demand is largely ‘OK’ and ‘in line’ with expectations, which suggests that pull-ins ahead of the potential increased U.S. tariffs in December are driving higher demand,” he wrote.

The U.S. is still scheduled to institute another round of tariffs on imports from China in mid-December. If implemented, the levies would affect many Apple products.

The analyst cited suppliers that said iPhone 11 demand is “slightly better” than expected. But his firm’s checks with wireless carriers in North America and Europe have revealed the Pro and Pro Max models were doing better than the iPhone 11.

MacDailyNews Take: It could be some combination of healthy demand (there are a lot of iPhone 6/6 Plus owners out there in dire need of an upgrade) and stockpiling ahead of potential U.S. import tariffs.

One thing’s for sure, we’re going to find out how iPhone sales did out of the gate when Apple reports holiday quarter results at the end of January 2020.


  1. More analyst “expert” overthinking… 🙄 Demand, whether for final product or the parts, is mostly driven by actual customer demand. iPhone 11 (all versions) is clearly seen by many customers as a worthy upgrade. And higher sales of Pro models versus “non-pro” is due to the 3 back cameras (with big square bulge) working as key differentiator. In previous year, XR sales were higher versus that year’s “pro” models, because the distinction was less obvious to most customers, except for lower price of XR.

  2. As an Apple shareholder, I don’t feel the need to listen to analysts and their guessing of sales numbers. Most of the reviews of the iPhone 11 models have been quite favorable in a number of ways and I think with word of mouth the iPhone 11 should sell rather well if consumers are upgrading, at all. I’ll reserve my enthusiasm for when Apple actually reports earnings and that will include Apple’s overall revenue and profits. There’s nothing an analyst says that beats straight from the company’s mouth. I’m not sure why so many people put up some analysts as Apple’s personal spokespersons. I don’t particularly trust any of them to know what’s going on behind the scenes at Apple.

    This year’s iPhone seems like a really decent product with very few drawbacks or should I say the pluses greatly outweigh the minuses. Consumers should really like that combined with relatively competitive pricing for the base model. I feel Apple is doing its part and it’s up to consumers to take advantage of that. I believe they will. I also believe Apple’s earnings will be good.

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