After Apple revised its revenue guidance for the December quarter to account for weaker-than-anticipated iPhone demand in China, media outlets across the board have cranked up their clickbait content generators to 11 to capitalize on AAPL panic season. Sadly, the vast majority of them write ignorant nonsense that has nothing to do with actual events.
The broken record of clickbait content mills
As with recent batches of Romaine lettuce, the stomach-churning word salad served up about Apple over the past few days appears to have nothing to do with the actual, specific issues the company detailed to its investors. The vast majority of it appears to have been prewritten and simply queued to be printed regardless of whether Apple had issued a statement or even if the company had not encountered any issues in China.
It is similar to a sentient broken record that will not stop playing. Apple’s problem in China this quarter is evidence that “its devices are now so expensive and the improvements to them are so minimal that many users prefer to fix them and postpone purchasing a new one,” as virtually all of these content mills reported as “news” this week.
Apple sells more than 200 million iPhones annually at an average price of nearly $800, which should be communicated to the editors who are searching Getty Images for photos of shriveled apples to illustrate the claim that “nobody is buying iPhones because they are so expensive and not innovative.” Consequently, this quarter’s sales are anticipated to reach $84 billion, even though crucial Chinese sales are declining.
This will be Apple’s second-largest quarter in its entire history. Perhaps you have heard us say this before.
Content generators: your theories are incomprehensibly idiotic. Virtually everyone on Earth who purchases a decent smartphone pays Apple a premium. There are only about a billion people on the planet who can currently afford to live an affluent “Designed in California” lifestyle, which is the only reason why Apple is not increasing its iPhone sales annually.
A complete rejection of facts to adhere to the commodity ideology
Apple was required by law to reissue its guidance as a public company due to a material change. It was clearly stated that lower-than-expected iPhone sales in China were the primary cause of this material change, and it’s not a mystery why the demand for a variety of goods is currently declining in China. Attempting to reread Tim Cook’s comments on demand in China through the lens of erroneous assumptions is rather foolish, given that it also affects non-premium-priced manufacturers, such as Ford, that don’t involve “innovation.”
Separately, Apple noted that “in some developed markets, iPhone upgrades were not as robust as anticipated,” but only after clarifying that “Greater China and other emerging markets accounted for the vast majority of the year-over-year decline in iPhone revenue.” [emphasis ours]
Apple provided a large number of suggestions for how it could improve, but not all of them were of equal importance. One of the comments referred to the generous subsidy Apple provided for battery upgrades through the end of December, allowing existing customers to replace their batteries for $29 as opposed to $79. This prompted a large number of customers to take advantage of the offer, delaying their intention to upgrade to a new model.
Instead of accepting Apple’s statement at face value, many pundits interpreted it as supporting evidence for their cynical personal conspiracy theories that Apple had been working to degrade the use of older iPhones as part of a devious strategy to force new upgrades, making Apple no better than Google and every other Android manufacturer that refuses to support their devices after the initial sale.
No Android licensees are offering heavily subsidized batteries to extend the life of their years-old Android products, but facts have no power to change the minds of those who want to believe them so desperately.
It appears that writers are reiterating their theories about what is occurring without any supporting evidence. These theories are also entirely unrelated to anything Apple has stated and have no basis in what is observable. Consider these hot takes, which are neither hot nor capable of being taken seriously.
Apple is identical to Samsung: Vlad Savov, The Verge
Writers at the Verge have long argued that Apple is “virtually identical” to various Android licensees, equating it to the vastly dissimilar Samsung, dubbing Xiaomi the “Apple of China,” and… well, let’s not even bring up what they said about Motorola a few years ago. Its most recent article, which purports to be “coverage” of Apple’s guidance note, ignores everything the company said and instead repeats a series of tired, false talking points.
Vlad Savov wrote, “If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Samsung’s soft sales of the Galaxy S9 through 2018 and Apple’s dramatically reduced forecast of iPhone revenues for the end of that year, it’s that the majority of people who want a great smartphone already have one.” This is a common assertion made by the Verge, but it is demonstrably false. Repeating a statement does not make it true, even if it sounds convincing to those who are unaware of the actual situation. This is also the antithesis of journalism.
People “already have great smartphones,” so Samsung’s Galaxy S9 did not underperform. Rather, the flagship failed to meet expectations because similar to Google’s Pixel models, there is very little demand in Android land for premium-priced handsets of any kind, primarily because Android commodities can be obtained for much less. The truth is that Samsung is not selling any fewer phones at present. It is simply selling a similar volume of primarily low-end phones. Savov strikes out on the facts.
Second, Apple’s revenue restatement has nothing to do with consumers’ reluctance to purchase a superior smartphone. iPhone sales account for the majority of Apple’s revenue. Apple would not be forecasting quarterly revenue just 5 to 9 percent below its original guidance if iPhone sales were plummeting due to waning consumer interest. Even though Apple has always faced business challenges, including a strong U.S. dollar, there is no significant issue with iPhone demand outside of China.
Apple has clarified that, while new iPhone demand has been weaker than anticipated in several markets, the “vast majority” of its change in revenue guidance is attributable to China and other emerging markets, not a global situation conveyed by the cliche truthiness that “people who want a great smartphone already have one.” Two strikes for facts.
As “proof” that Apple was not being truthful about China in its statement to investors, Savov cited a fellow writer at the Verge who provided a personal anecdote about why he would not be purchasing a new iPhone this year, despite having done so for the past several years. If his personal experience were representative of iPhone buyers, Apple would have sold a billion iPhones annually for the past five years. These people aren’t deep thinkers.
Apple and Samsung are not similarly covered by the media
Consider the media coverage disparity between Apple and the largest Android licensee: Samsung did not notify its investors that the Galaxy S9 was not selling well until after its mobile revenue had plummeted. Phone blogs reported that Samsung issued its original revenue guidance for its most recently reported third quarter in October “Things appear to be solid. The report indicates that the company is back on track after breaking another profit record.”
Even though Samsung Electronics as a whole met its guidance with revenue growth of 5% year-over-year, Samsung’s Mobile IM phone segment declined by 12% YoY in the most recent quarter without any Apple-like warning or explanation. Samsung’s Mobile IM had reported revenue declines of 22 percent year-over-year in the preceding quarter, so this crash was hardly a surprise.
There was no flurry of news articles reiterating the notion that Samsung Galaxy was on its last legs or that the company was in dire need of “innovation” or a pivot into a new product category. Samsung’s stumbling phone revenue was masked by its surging non-phone revenue.
Ironically, this was large because Samsung is Apple’s largest supplier, even though “Apple Supplier” Watchers tend to ignore the company. After all, it’s doing so well selling flexible OLED panels and other high-end components to Apple, which is making a fortune selling iPhones. This fact poses a significant problem for the media’s “iPhone is doomed, according to supplier data” narrative, so it is simply omitted. However, this is a fact, whereas “no one buys smartphones anymore” is not.
Samsung’s plummeting phone revenue is incomparable to Apple’s reduced outlook. The world’s largest Android licensee posted a 22 percent and then a 12 percent decline in its actual smartphone-centric revenues with no guidance warnings. Additionally, Apple does not anticipate an iPhone or total revenue decline of 5 to 9 percent. The company announced a 5 to 9 percent decline in its original guidance.
Apple now anticipates Q1 revenues of approximately $84 billion, compared to its record Q1 revenues of $88.3 billion in the prior year. That’s a decrease in revenue of less than 4.9 percent year-over-year, which is significantly less than half of the 12 percent decline Samsung Mobile IM experienced in the previous quarter without anyone noticing, much less causing any faces to melt, and not even comparable to the 22 percent decline that the media shrugged off in October while only modestly acknowledging that the Galaxy S9 wasn’t exactly a hit.
Samsung IM Mobile’s percentages of revenue change are based on smaller numbers; Samsung ships significantly more phones than Apple while generating less than half the revenues, and its calendar Q2 and Q3 are significantly smaller than Apple’s fiscal Q1 ending in December. However, Samsung’s roughly $5.5 billion revenue loss in Q2 due to its flagging flagships is much more difficult to recover from than Apple’s $5 billion to $9 billion guidance shortfall. Apple’s iPad, Mac, Watch, and Services businesses are booming, whereas Samsung’s are virtually nonexistent. Even with significantly slower sales in China, Apple will still generate $84 billion in revenue at the same profit margins it has been earning.
This indicates that Apple was grazed by the bullet of weakening Chinese demand, whereas Samsung has received a solid blow to the gut each quarter. Why, then, are analysts freaking out about Apple’s relatively minor shift in expected guidance while ignoring Samsung’s even larger hits against a much smaller and far less profitable business, such as in the second quarter, when Samsung IM earned $2.2 billion while Apple reported profits of $12,612 million?
Because they are content clickbait generators tasked with whipping the web into a frenzy of social network interactions to support surveillance advertising and have little interest in communicating with their readers about actual events.
Apple and iPhones’ planned anti-obsolescence
Therefore, all of The Verge’s opening claims were completely false. But it continued, falsely claiming that Tim Cook’s letter to investors could be summed up as “there are already too many good phones on the market.”
False once more, that’s three strikes. This contradicts what Apple has been claiming for some time. And if you define truth as being supported by significant, observable facts, this statement is completely false.
Apple has devoted considerable time at its most recent media events, from WWDC to Brooklyn, to demonstrating that its installed base of satisfied users is not as frighteningly negative as analysts continue to assert. Instead, Apple considers this to be a desirable outcome and actively works to ensure that existing iPhones remain operational and usable for as long as possible. This has been accomplished through iOS upgrades that have supported iPhones for at least four years, whereas the industry cannot manage to deliver Android updates for even 18 months.
Apple’s explanation of its “planned anti-obsolescence” blew people’s minds because it contradicts the cynically-cliche notion that Apple sabotages existing devices with fatty iOS releases and battery shenanigans to sell more iPhones.
If so, why has Apple continued to support iPhones older than five years with each iOS release? IOS 12 was largely motivated by efforts to make it more efficient on older iPhones.
Apple is not experiencing the same difficulties in selling new iPhones as GoPro did with its cameras, which faced a relatively small addressable market that had become content with the action camera they had purchased for quite some time.
If Apple had the GoPro problem, it would not be able to release more expensive models! Since 2015, Apple has sold over 200 million iPhones annually, despite its product portfolio trending toward more expensive models. This indicates that Apple regularly upgrades a significant portion of its installed base. It also contradicts a media narrative that Apple’s prices are excessively high. If this were the case, iPhone sales would be declining like Samsung’s and the iPhone’s Average Selling Price would be declining alongside Androids, rather than increasing toward $800 in a sea of $250 Android commodities.
If consumers believed iPhones were overpriced, the iPhone’s average selling price would be declining. Apple offers a variety of iPhone models at various price points. It is incoherent to argue that customers cannot afford $999 iPhones given that iPhone X attracted the largest market share. This season, the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max models with the newest, premium-priced lineup saw the greatest demand. This is not the case for Samsung and other Android licensees, which sell a negligible number of high-end handsets but a large volume of low-end devices.
Apple sells more than 200 million new iPhones annually, which translates to approximately a fifth of Apple’s installed base upgrading each year. Some upgrade annually, while others wait at least three years until a new feature catches their attention, or until their old device is irreparably damaged. However, the overall percentage remains at approximately 20%.
This indicates that Apple does not anticipate a large percentage of its brand-new iPhone X users to upgrade to the iPhone XS. Rather, Apple anticipated luring approximately one-fifth of its installed base to purchase either the new iPhone XS; the larger iPhone XS Max; the new, more affordable iPhone XR; or perhaps an older model that is still a nice upgrade for iPhone 6 or earlier users.
And, this appears to have been achieved everywhere else in the world besides China.
Every time Apple alters its product lineup, it must recalculate where it anticipates demand to be and what consumers will value at a given price. This year, multiple factors complicated the math. The lack of economic growth in China played a larger role than expected. The fact that Apple’s initial projections from three months ago were only off by 6 to 9 percent indicates that the company has a good understanding of market demand and pricing.
The fact that Apple is self-flagellating and holding meetings to determine how to improve does not indicate that the company is facing a terrifying doom; rather, it indicates that Apple is a relentless perfectionist. It’s like a professional ice skater who performs a series of impossible tricks, only to be disappointed when she fails to execute one maneuver perfectly. As with unit sales reporting, observers would never detect a problem if Apple did not disclose its invisible internal problems in SEC reports and investor notes.
Note that in Android land, no licensee has ever reported its unit sales; there is no oversight of Samsung’s massive faceplants, which have cost the company over $5 billion in lost Galaxy S9 sales this summer and $5 billion in Note 7 fires previously. The media only ever makes excuses for Samsung’s visibly sloppy ice performances, and the majority of the world’s Androids are now manufactured in Chinese factories that are not required to report revenue or financial data.
Installed base versus market share for Apple
One of the most popular claims made by Android advocates is that these companies are gaining market share based on the number of devices sold. Sadly, one-fourth of “share” is a Pyrrhic victory for factories that produce large volumes at near-zero profit margins. Because consumers are equally likely to purchase their next Android from another commodity manufacturer.
There is no loyalty in Android land, no reason for Android licensees to even attempt to keep old phones operational, no reason to subsidize battery replacements, and no hope for any licensee to ever establish a loyal buyer base. It is a vicious cycle of self-defeating greed and cheap efficiency that is effectively corkscrewing a hole in the ground for itself.
For Apple, the greater the number of active iPhones it can maintain, the larger the upgrade market it can count on each year. Apple desires, counterintuitively, that it’s older phones continue to function so that even refurbished trade-ins and hand-me-downs continue to serve individuals who may upgrade to a new iPhone in the future.
Existing iPhone users are much less likely to abandon iOS because Apple continues to make its platform appealing. Apple, unlike Android, is cultivating a robust ecosystem, not merely a compatibility API for running shared software on devices manufactured by various Chinese factories.
The Verge completely overlooks this. Instead, it continued to harp on the tired and incorrect notion that “no one buys smartphones anymore,” before inevitably turning its story — ostensibly about Apple and Samsung — into a native advertisement for a camera feature of Google’s Pixel, a phone that is not being purchased in large quantities.
But that trite word salad is not only ineffective advertising for Google; it is patently false—Samsung is still selling vast quantities of phones, but it is neither profitable nor reaching premium buyers. Apple continues to sell record numbers of iPhones while generating nearly all of the industry’s revenue by effectively targeting premium customers.
“No one buys smartphones anymore” is the type of nonsensical statement that actively prevents readers from comprehending the actual situation. It is in no way true.
Mobile phone purchasers are not merely awaiting a “technological innovation” upgrade, to use yet another trite observation. The Verge continued. A significant proportion is breaking or losing their phones, or are simply upgrading to get the new color they desire.
Tech reviewers believe they are representative of the general public and that the majority of consumers are interested in chips, RAM, or a Google-promoted photo feature. If that were the case, how has Apple been able to sell a Product(Red) iPhone and iPod for so many years, and why is Google’s Pixel not attracting buyers?
Have Android marketers never visited a store? Do they believe that no one buys jeans because there appears to be no technological innovation occurring in the production of pants? Do they believe that no one buys televisions because everyone must already possess one? Do they wonder why individuals purchase shirts that cost more than the component fabric listed on the bill of sale? What is it about Apple that transforms even the most mundane financial discussion into an illogical tirade of hyperbolic hysteria?
Greater Word Salad
M.G. Seigler, writing for 500ish.com, condensed a series of his tweet storm-hot takes on Apple’s Q1 into a blog post that essentially asserts that the company desperately needs to show growth, and now that iPhones aren’t growing significantly, it needs to get aggressive with Services.
Prescient! Except that iPhone sales have stagnated since they first surpassed 200 million per year in 2015. This is nothing new. It is not insightful to look back at the past four years of iPhone sales and repeat cliches such as the “law of large numbers” to explain that there is no other country on the verge of producing a new American-sized batch of middle-class consumers.
It’s also not brilliant to point to Apple’s Services strategy of the past few years and claim that it’s the best strategy “Hey, Apple had better follow through on its promise. What it consistently indicates it is doing successfully! Listen up, I have so many responses.”
The technorati discuss how Apple’s CEO lacks vision and has an “innovation problem,” and are then awestruck by the brilliance of these bloggers regurgitating the same Captain Obvious nonsense, mixed up with their full-on delusion about “pricing too high,” as if Apple would have been truly set up for success if it had engaged in a pricing war with Android licensees and convinced consumers that iPhones are worth no more than $400.
Apple could now reduce prices if necessary. Apple would have no options if iPhone prices were already so low as to threaten its profit margins. Fortunately, Apple does not heed the advice of pundits and analysts who were shouting from the rooftops that a $300 iPhone was the only solution for China. We’d never have gotten iPhone X.
Is this the end of Apple as well as Apple commentary?
Kara Swisher, immediately after announcing that “Apple’s innovation cycle has slowed down,” asked, “Where is their exciting new product and where are their exciting new entrepreneurs?” turned around and wrote a lengthy article for the New York Times in which he accuses Apple and the entire tech industry of suffering from a lack of innovation.
Swisher wrote, “Apple has been the moon for investors for so long that the mere thought of the company struggling sent the entire global stock market into a panic and sent indexes plunging.” The language is colorful, but what does it mean? Since the 1990s, Apple has been viewed by analysts and investors as perpetually dying. Years of incomprehensible quarterly performance were rewarded with a shockingly low stock valuation based on the assumption of zero future growth. Even when Apple’s market capitalization reached a trillion dollars in the fall of last year, its shares were still priced below its competitors’ Price/Earnings ratios.
Throughout the past decade of Apple’s undeniable iPhone super success cycle, the company’s stock has repeatedly fallen in half as investors and high-frequency trading bots were persuaded to sell shares for nothing on the news that Apple had stopped “innovating.” How can you write about the most recent Apple stock panic without even a basic understanding of 2008, 2013, and 2015?
Swisher painted a picture of a world where there is nothing left to invent, develop, or design, and certainly nothing that could be commercially successful. “There is no doubt that Mr. Cook and his team have done an outstanding job capitalizing on and managing this last cycle of innovation,” he wrote, describing a world where there is nothing left to invent, develop, or design, and certainly nothing that could be commercially successful. What astounding logic: Apple has reportedly hit so many home runs that it has no more home run potential.
Swisher sounds as if she is channeling John Dvorak, who wrote the famous 1984 screed “The Macintosh employs an experimental pointing device known as a mouse. There is no evidence that individuals desire to utilize these items.” It may be time to reconsider Apple’s reputation.
The potential of the iPhone, the App Store, iPads, Machine Learning, Augmented Reality, or any of the wildly innovative technological underpinnings of silicon firmware, software, mass production assembly, and every other field that non-technical people take for granted was not conceived by pundits. Apple employees came up with this stuff despite being constantly mocked for lacking innovation as if it were inherently clever to scribble out that phrase or call CNBC for a “why Apple is doomed” expert interview.
Breaking news: it is not. It makes you sound ridiculous. It is a popular cliche among stuffed shirt analysts and pundits with nothing of value to say because it is a catchphrase for incompetent nincompoops.
Observe how other Twitter accounts applaud the confirmation of Apple’s “innovation problem” as if they were a congregation of believers applauding one another’s beliefs because they all want to believe the same set of ideas. Amen! Apple is not innovative, but let’s say it again because it makes no sense! Preach!
Few pundits have ever accurately predicted anything other than the PR they were given to promote. Remember the platitudes regarding Motorola’s future and “innovations” such as Google Glass? Why should they be able to predict what will happen tomorrow? And why is the widespread, unanimous belief that nothing new will ever occur in the future, and especially not at Apple, which has a major problem with “not being innovative,” worth anything at all?
Bloomberg dares to accuse Apple of lying
Following the publication of a bombshell report that appears to have been fabricated by an imaginative writer and presented as factual without credible sources, Bloomberg rushed to accuse Apple of lying about its prospects in China. Supposedly, Apple did so to embarrass itself by requiring a restatement of its quarterly guidance. On the conspiracy meter, this one is a machine killer.
“Apple failed in the No. 1 mission of being a public company: being honest with investors about its business,” Shira Ovide proclaimed for Bloomberg less than a year after the company published a flurry of other false coverage that clumsily misinterpreted data supposedly sourced from Apple’s supply chain to claim that iPhone X wasn’t selling well anywhere. You could say that Bloomberg “failed in its primary mission as a media company.”
Must be great to be able to write irresponsible garbage without repercussions and still be respected by other media insiders for continuing to publish your musings so long as they are bitterly critical of Apple. In America, you can be anything you want if you tell a baseless lie with obnoxious arrogance.