iPhone X shipments were not, however, the fastest ever for an iPhone due to Apple's decision to offer the device alongside the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus, and shipments were below industry expectations.
Canalys says that adoption was largely driven by upgrade demand in operator-centric markets like the United States where the installed base is high and customers can finance $999 cost of the device over many months. Apple was able to hit the 29 million number after a significant increase in production throughout November and December, with the company shipping out iPhone X orders earlier than expected and hitting supply/demand balance towards the end of the month.
"The iPhone X performance is impressive for a device priced at US$999, but it is slightly below industry expectations," said Ben Stanton, Analyst at Canalys. "Apple struggled with supply issues in early November, but achieved a massive uplift in production in late November and throughout December. This helped it meet and even exceed demand in some markets by the end of the quarter. One major benefit to Apple is that customers are increasingly realizing the residual value of their old smartphones, opting for trade-in programs to offset the high price of the iPhone X. But that big price tag, and Apple's split launch strategy, still had an impact, and shipments were not the fastest ever for an iPhone."Of the 29 million iPhone X devices that were shipped in the fourth quarter of 2017, Canalys says seven million of those were shipped to China, a country where Apple has been aiming to increase growth.
Canalys says that along with the iPhone X, iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, iPhone 7, and iPhone 8 models also continued to "ship well" in Q4 2017, with the older smartphones remaining popular due to their lower price tag.
"Apple is looking at its best performance to date, all thanks to the massive changes it made to its portfolio in Q3," said Canalys Analyst TuanAnh Nguyen. "This strategy has hedged Apple's risk as it upgrades the iPhone, in both design and user experience. While new technologies, such as Face ID and bezel-less displays, help to justify the US$999 price tag and maintain competitiveness with Samsung, Huawei and Google, having a larger portfolio allows Apple to meet its overall shipment targets, and protect its market leadership in the premium segment."Canalys' data is in line with other estimates that have suggested the iPhone X sold well -- though not as well as hoped -- during its first few months of availability. Consumer Intelligence Research Partners recently said that 20 percent of all iPhones sold in Q4 2017 were iPhone X devices, while 24 percent were iPhone 8 devices and 17 percent were iPhone 8 Plus devices.
Kantar Worldpanel said that the iPhone X saw "stellar" performance in several countries during its first month of availability, though it was outsold by the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus. Combined, Apple's three new iPhones captured the top spots for best-selling smartphone models during the month.
Though Apple does not breakout iPhone sales on a model-by-model basis, we'll get a better idea of just how well the iPhone X sold when Apple announces its Q1 2018 earnings on Thursday, February 1.
Apple's guidance for the first fiscal quarter (fourth calendar quarter) of 2018 includes expected revenue of $84 to $87 billion and gross margin between 38 and 38.5 percent. It will be a record setting quarter even at the low end of the guidance range, as Apple reached just $78.4 billion in revenue in Q1 2017.
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