The iPhone often feels like it is something entirely different from the rest of the smartphone conversation. There is always a competition with it, and there are people who are loyal to Apple products alone. You might see people loyal to Android phones, but rarely any particular brand or model type of them. Further still, Apple has been expanding its services and options to ensure those iPhone users have everything they might want from a smartphone. Whether it's music, movies, or a video calling app, Apple has its customers covered.
Yet the tech world is constantly changing, and Apple is an adaptive company. What is Apple able to do with its iPhone, where does it stand, and what do current developments mean for you as a consumer or potential consumer of their smartphones? There’s a lot to dive into, and there are many things we still do not know or even Apple does not know.
We know that you have a lot of questions (as do we), so here is as much information as we can provide on the topic of the iPhone in 2023:
Simple by design and monolithic in its importance to the smartphone industry, there is quite nothing like this series of smartphones. But what can we learn about it over the years? It’s not magical, and we can certainly study it like any other product. Here are a few things you should know:
- The iPhone itself is diversifying in price more amongst its models. As of this writing, the cheapest iPhone might be the iPhone 12 at around $700, and the most expensive looks to be the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which costs about $1200. The prices can vary by the retailer of course and will likely decrease over time as new models come out. There are also other models which are cheaper, but they will likely be older models, refurbished, or used, which is an entirely different market.
- While the iPhone is key, there are plenty of peripherals that are popular with iPhone users. Apple sold 43 million Apple Watches in 2020. More impressively, it sold 110 million AirPods in the same year.
- The iPhone is its own business segment in Apple. The company is divided into five groups: iPhone, Mac, iPad, Services and Wearable, and Home and Accessories. All have a part to play in the company, but in recent years the iPhone division is creating the lion’s share of the company’s revenue.
- More specifically, iPhone sales comprised 57.8 percent of company revenue in the fourth quarter of 2021.
- This is not to say that the other sectors do not play their part. While Max and iPads are somewhat their own thing, the Services and Wearable division in part makes an iPhone appealing in the first place. Hardware-wise, it is ok, if overpriced by most standards. It is the user experience and what people can do with it that makes people interested in an iPhone.
- Yet the sales of iPhones and how common they are in the world do vary from year to year. Apple is highly incentivized to keep innovating its product and experience for users. There is a new flagship phone every year from each major manufacturer, and Apple can be quickly stripped of its title. This means that when you see a major new feature from a competitor, you can be Apple is working on an equivalent to come out on a model soon.
- Alternatively, Apple might look at the said feature and dismiss it as a gimmick that will pass on into obscurity in just a few years. They may do so correctly or incorrectly.
- While the iPhone as we know it was first released in 2007, there was an interesting prototype of an “iPhone” created in 1983. It was still a landline phone of course, but it did have a screen that operated by stylus and would be far more advanced than what most people were used to at the time.
- While the iPhone is not dominant all over the world, it is highly profitable for apple. While they might only be responsible for anywhere from 15 to 20 percent of worldwide smartphone sales (depending on when you look at the data), the iPhone is responsible for anywhere from 80 to 90 percent of smartphone profits. They are likely able to sell at a higher profit margin than other manufacturers while remaining competitive.
- Users of iOS tend to stick with the most recent version of the operating system. As of a few years ago, 81 percent of iOS devices were using the latest version of iOS.
- It should be noted that there are issues with this that aren’t necessarily the greatest for customers. It is well noted that a new iOS version usually means a slower experience for users on existing iPhones, which may make them want to get the latest model.
Sales and Market Dominance
In terms of total units sold, the number of Android phones out there vastly outstrips the number of iPhones. But that isn’t necessarily the only way to look at it. If you look at the top selling phones overall, you will see that the iPhone is popular in sales.
Here are the top selling phone brands as of early 2022:
The only close competitors might be Samsung, which is a giant in the electronics world overall, and Xiaomi, which has a huge advantage in China, which has an immense user base. Given that Apple is focused on the United States, which doesn’t have so many people, it does extremely well.
Some other important facts about iPhone sales:
- Currently, at least 1 Billion people use an iPhone. That is more people that even had a smartphone of any type some years ago, and the number is expected to grow as more people need smartphones and can afford some version of the iPhone. Naturally, there could be a change in the market that affects this, such as a major innovation or a scandal at Apple.
- In just the last quarter of 2021, 84.1 million Apple iPhone units were sold.
- Looking over the years, you can see that the iPhone went from selling over 11 million units in 2008 to an estimated 242 million units in 2021. We consider this to be the result of both a loyal following and more people desiring or needing a smartphone in general.
- As for more general statistics than individual years or quarters, Apple has a smartphone market share of about 15.9 percent. Samsung still beats it out at about 20 percent as of 2020 (the information can take a few years to get a clear number on), but there is nothing to indicate a huge change there. However, given just the sheer number of smartphones that Samsung puts out, Apple remains impressive on a global scale.
- In the United States, Apple's domination of the market is even larger. As of 2021, there are 211 million active iPhone units. You might have noticed it yourself just through the number you see in your everyday life. How can so many people have an iPhone and the debate seem to be between an iPhone and everything else? Apple has done a great job, and there is a lot to say about keeping a captive audience. The next time you’re out, check to see how long it takes you to notice that someone has an iPhone.
- If you do the math, 211 million active units mean that more than half the population has one. This is likely not the case, and estimates are closer to 40-45 percent of smartphone users have an iPhone. How is this possible? Many people have multiple phones, perhaps one for home and one for work.
- These are the latest phones, but what about going back a bit? In total, iOS (the operating system on iPhones) has a total share of 26.2 percent of the worldwide smartphone market. That is huge for one company, and it is hard for any other manufacturer to compete. Given that this is an increase from 22.7 percent in 2019, Apple is clearly doing something right and expanding its global influence. And while there have always been ups and downs here, iOS has consistently had a market share of more than 19 percent since its inception.
Despite being a worldwide phenomenon and likely the best-selling line of phones of all time, the iPhone isn’t available everywhere. The first iPhone was originally only available in the United States and a handful of European countries. This later expanded into a much wider spread after the iPhone 3G version came out, including all the countries we now know the iPhone as being popular in.
Currently, the iPhone is available in most of the developed world. However, it remains unavailable in most African countries, a fair amount of Asian and Eastern European countries, and a handful of South American countries. Some of these are for obvious reasons (the iPhone is not available in North Korea), but with others, we wonder if Apple did not see the profit potential or if the country in question does not have the infrastructure available to support the iPhone properly. A smartphone is only as good as its service, after all.
However, while the iPhone is available in these countries, its true dominance lies in the United States, which is why we might focus on there a lot more than we normally would in this post.
iPhone Sales by Model
There have been more than a dozen main iterations of the iPhone, and plenty of submodels within those iterations. Which ones did the best and which ones did people flock to? If there was a particularly popular model, why?
In some cases, the more recent models will have an advantage, as there are more buyers and Apple has a larger loyal consumer base the more recent you get. However, the iPhone 6 line and the iPhone 6S like were particularly popular. This was because there were larger screen options compared to the iPhones of the past. It was a huge display improvement, and people noticed. And compared with other models the 6 and 6S were a huge improvement over previous designs. People went out of their way to get an iPhone 6. The others were sold as people needed to upgrade.
It should be noted that the sales numbers for the last couple of models might not be complete, as there is still more time left before they cease production and are hard to find in stores. Even the iPhone 12 today still sells some units, and price might become a more important point than performance as performance improves and prices increase.
Apple as a Company
To talk about the iPhone, its impact, and where it might be going, we need to talk about the company, its own impact, and where it stands in the grander landscape of the tech world.
- The amount of revenue that Apple took in previous years was huge, to the tune of 365.8 billion in 2021. That is more than the GDP of quite a few countries and showcases that Apple is a force in the modern world.
- Apple also happens to have a huge market cap, being one of the largest companies in the world. As of this writing, Apple has a market cap of $2.75 trillion, and they still have room to grow if they keep expanding their operations.
- Apple also employs many people, to the tune of about 154,000 thousand people. They also provide additional work in the form of contract work as needed. And this is not even counting the immense impact of the app store. Jobs related to apps on the app store could easily number in the millions, though it would be difficult to determine an exact number. And as apps become the future, Apple will be responsible for even more jobs in the coming decade, unless they find some way to automate innovation.
- Speaking of innovation, Apple is regularly working on that. In 2021 they spent $21.91 billion on research and development. This in turn is more than a three billion dollar increase from the previous year, and that increase is indicative of a clear trend. Not only are research costs rising, but Apple knows that it needs to spend more to stay ahead of the rest of the pack.
Apps, App Sales, and the App Store
Without the apps that make our daily lives easier and more entertaining, the iPhone would mostly just be a somewhat nice piece of hardware that can make phone calls. Apps add character to our phones, and the app store is a portal to a multitude of other worlds and use cases for your iPhone. Here are some statistics and facts you should be aware of regarding them:
- As of 2021, there were 3.6 million apps in the Apple App Store. While some of them are much more popular than others, all have some use and nearly all of them have some downloads. Apple does have some standards for apps, and yet people and companies keep finding new uses for the iPhone.
- Gaming is also huge on the iPhone, though it may look different than what you might be used to. There are 984,000 app games on the Apple Store.
- Coincidentally, games are by far the most popular category of apps. Perhaps it is because for other categories people like to stick with a couple of apps at most while games are ephemeral. Or perhaps there are simply more games being produced. It is likely a combination of factors, but no matter the case people like their iPhone gaming.
- The vast majority of apps on the App Store are free to download. There are plenty that charge premium fees or subscription options, but most apps you can at least try out a little before taking out your wallet.
- If you’re wondering how some of these metrics compared with the Google Play Store, practically Apple’s only major competitor, then you won’t find many differences. The same trends follow with slightly different numbers.
- Overall, people download hundreds of billions of apps every year. Whether people are downloading faithful apps to new phones or just trying out the hot new thing, people are likely to download at least a few apps each month.
- Apps aren’t terribly expensive, with the average price of an app being about 88 cents and that number including games being about 80 cents. Note that there are plenty of low cost and free apps decreasing that price, and many of the paid apps are plenty expensive.
Talking about smartphone apps could warrant its own nearly endless series of articles. We encourage you to look into the topic more and that you try to learn more about the apps installed on your phone right now.
What Is Next for Apple?
If other tech companies are anything to go by, we will likely see an increased investment in services with the home to not only integrate more people into the grand infrastructure of the company but gain more revenue in the process. To keep growing, the company will need to consider how to get more from the customers it already has, and it will need to offer more to customers to do so.
What does this mean? We are likely to see an increase in investment in wearables. Once everyone that is going to get an iPhone has an iPhone, then peripherals and extra services where will be what Apple has to rely on to grow (and as a company, it wants to grow). We could see an expansion of Apple Music or other services, to the extent that Apple is able. Apple has gotten into mobile gaming more with Apple Arcade, though it has been relatively quiet as of late.
Among Apple’s various services, we have seen a great increase in the number of subscribers. We will likely see an increase to 1 billion total users by 2025, and this could increase even more if Apple unveils a new service in the coming years. Given that smartphones in general can do more than ever before, we are likely to see something.
Other companies such as Google and Amazon have long spent a fair amount of money trying to create either the next big thing or experimental technology. Remember Google Glass? That was one of those projects, as ill-fated as it was. Apple has been somewhat different in that they’ve been more conservative, focusing on their major departments and products and not much else. They are quite willing to discontinue a product after a time. Apple wants customers focused on what it wants, not the other way around.
And what are customers looking for? At the moment, nothing in particular, or that their preferences will change like the wind. They will always be looking for improved versions of what they already use, and things such as better screen resolution or a better camera will always be received well. There are other factors such as better connections and internet speed, but that is out of the hands of Apple and more in the hands of service providers.
The iPhone is a dominant force in the smartphone industry, especially in the United States. There’s a lot to learn about them and a lot of handy information you can use to better your own experience. We hope that you know more about the iPhone you might own and have a better idea of whether the company and products are something personally worth following. We welcome you to come back to this article as you feel the need and that you try to learn more if you have any questions. We wish you a great time with your phone (iPhone or not) and that you keep exploring what these devices can do and the impact they have!