Apple’s newest iPhone customers aren’t just old customers upgrading older devices – in fact, the vast majority are migrating from other platforms. Apple CEO Tim Cook told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that a large percentage of consumers buying iPhones lately are coming from devices that aren’t iPhones, and that most of those are shifting over from Android. This is potentially better news for Apple than its record-breaking 74.5 million iPhones sold during the past quarter, because it means there’s plenty of headroom to improve on that number in the future.
A lot of the apprehension that crops around Apple when it posts huge numbers like it did this past quarter involves analysts predicting it has or is about to reach a ceiling, but the way in which Apple is racking up sales is as important as how many it’s moving. Apple CEO Tim Cook has pointed to new markets with lots of consumers new to smartphones as key opportunities, and the company’s success in markets like Greater China has shown those sentiments to be true.
The size and shape of the emerging smartphone market is debatable, however, and partly at the whim of global economic climate shifts (and that’s doubly true when you’re targeting the rarefied higher end of the market). What isn’t as hard to pin down is the pool of existing smartphone users who own an Android device: It’s a huge market, one that we’ve spent the last few years watching as it grows.
Apple’s situation with the iPhone in some ways parallels what happened with the Mac: Cupertino led the way with a relatively successful early product before it ceded the majority of the market to a competitor and started making gains once again. The big difference is one of scale: iPhone was never on the ropes in the way the Mac was, and as a result the moment (now) when it starts bringing switchers back to its platform sees it doing so from a position of power. The Macs steady gain in the PC market, when applied to the iPhone/Android equivalent, could translate to huge sales volumes if Apple can continue to convince people to switch camps.
Nothing on the horizon would seem to indicate Android devices are on the verge of gaining any significant technical advantage over iPhones, and Apple’s pacing in terms of releasing larger-screened devices has clearly done a lot to trigger of users waiting for that feature on iOS hardware. And with Samsung seeming like a ship that may have lost its rudder, Apple may be fighting a battle without a truly organized resistance.