Unlike other electronics companies, Apple has so far not made any cutbacks in its workforce or announced other cost-cutting actions. However, the industry slump brought on by inflation and falling consumer demand has hit the mobile phone market, and Apple is no exception.
Apple introduced its iPhone 14 series of smartphones last September, and the electronics company often announces its next generation of iPhones in the September/October time frame, so it is not surprising that the company would use March to update its product offerings, this time adding yellow to its expanding palette of iPhone colors.
The news, while minor, could spark some much-needed consumer interest in the Apple iPhone 14 series, which according to many reports have fallen short of sales expectations. Some of the lagging sales can be attributed to supply-chain issues. A COVID-19 outbreak at Apple’s contract manufacturer Foxconn’s plant in Zhengzhou, China, last November put a temporary halt to the flagship Apple iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max smartphones.
Dismal 4Q22 Apple iPhone Sales
Still, the poor sales during the fourth quarter of 2022 could be a cause for concern. According to Omdia’s global smartphone shipment report from February, global smartphone shipments totaled 301.5 million units in 4Q22, down 15.4% compared to the previous year. While holiday sales usually drive fourth-quarter sales, Omdia reported that fourth-quarter shipments actually fell 0.7% compared to the previous quarter.
For Apple, the good news was that its market share increased year-over-year from 24% in 2021 to 25% in 2022. However, Apple iPhone 4Q22 shipments still fell 13.3% from 4Q21, with other OEMs experiencing similar or greater falls.
“Apple seemed to be the one OEM resisting the overall decline in the wider market in the first three quarters of 2022, but it has now finally succumbed to the overall market conditions,” said Jusy Hong, Senior Research Manager at Omdia, in statement. “Because its consumers are typically loyal and high-income customers, it was expected that the cost-of-living crisis wouldn’t affect Apple shipments in the same way it effects low and mid-range brands. But now, with the effects of inflation and production disruptions, Apple’s fourth quarter bump in 2022 is disappointingly small compared to the previous year.”
Weak Demand Foreseen for 2023
So far, the lag in smartphone sales has carried into the current year, with no immediate end in sight. IDC (International Data Corporation) recently downgraded its 2023 projected global smartphone forecast, now calling for shipments to decline 1.1% to 1.19 billion units, down from the 2.8% growth forecast previously.
Citing weak demand, IDC does not expect the smartphone market to recover until 2024, when the firm expects 5.9% year-over-year growth, followed by low single-digit growth.
"2023 is set to be a year of two halves with the first half piggybacking off the downhill slide from the fourth quarter of 2022," said Anthony Scarsella, research director with IDC's Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers, in a statement. "Most regions will face double-digit declines in the first half of the year, make a turn into positive territory in the third quarter, and then boost into double-digit growth in the last quarter of the year. We expect the influx of premium flagships that typically launch in the third and fourth quarters will keep the full year decline from being worse."
With the addition of the yellow color now official, Apple iPhone enthusiasts are now counting the days to the 14’s successor, the 15. While everything now is open to speculation, the site MacRumors said iPhone 15 would feature USB-C instead of Lightning, solid-state volume and power buttons, and new camera technology, for starters.
In the meantime, Apple is taking pre-orders for its yellow iPhone 14, which will become available starting March 14.
Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News covering the electronics beat. He has many years of experience covering developments in components, semiconductors, subsystems, power, and other facets of electronics from both a business/supply-chain and technology perspective. He can be reached at [email protected]