Why has Apple stormed to new heights with iPhone 5S and 5C sales?

Rather than talking about how Apple is changing the industry, trend pieces tend to focus on the company’s downfall thanks to its own lack of innovation, and the rise of its rivals. When the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C released this weekend, Apple sold around nine million units, nearly doubling the amount analysts predicted, and breaking sales records. Just when you thought Apple was waning, all it took was some new colours and an iterative processor upgrade to put it back on top.

For those who hid under a rock without Wi-Fi last week and avoided the Apple barrage, the company released two new phones: The iPhone 5S and 5C. In short, the 5S is similar to the 3GS and 4S – an iterative upgrade, sprucing up the original iPhone 5 model, but this time adding a new piece of hardware, the Touch ID sensor. The iPhone 5C is, more or less, an iPhone 5 with a new, colourful plastic shell.

Largely due to the iterative nature of the new phones, analysts expected Apple to sell around five million units over the release weekend, but Apple sold around nine million, significantly outdoing expectations.

In comparison, when Apple released the iPhone 5 – a piece of hardware that underwent a change more than the 5S and 5C did – the company only sold around five million during that opening weekend. There are some differences between this release and the previous one inflating those numbers, though. This time around, Apple is selling new iPhones in China; furthermore, the company is selling two new phones – the 5S and 5C – rather than just one new iPhone 5.

As far as which iPhone sold more, the 5S has been activated more than thrice the amount of the 5C in the US, with the 5S accounting for around 1 per cent of the iPhone market, and the 5C inhabiting around 0.3 per cent.

Meanwhile, Apple also made sure we knew that since iOS 7 was released last week, it has already been installed on more than 200 million devices.

Okay, great, Apple just sold nearly 10 million iPhones in a weekend, what does this really mean? For starters, you’ve no doubt seen articles all over the Internet saying that Tim Cook doesn’t know how to run Apple – perhaps even written by someone familiar.

However, somehow Apple was able to almost double its own sales record simply by launching new, iterative phones where the biggest noticeable change was their colour option. If all it takes for people to froth at the mouth for a new iPhone are some drastic new colours and a fingerprint sensor that, so far, only really lets you bypass typing in a password, maybe we should rethink how we feel about Tim Cook’s reign and Apple in general.

Basically, Apple is like Magic: The Gathering. Wizards of the Coast’s card game is bigger than it has ever been, except you never really hear much about it anymore unless you’re friends with a dedicated player. Instead, you read more about the rise of its competition, the digital CCG, such as Mojang’s Scrolls, Blizzard’s Hearthstone, or any of the identical iOS card battlers that plague the App Store.

We hear about Apple all the time, but we hear more about its competition than its success nowadays – how Android or Samsung are overtaking the market. Apple’s record breaking sales over the weekend, though, prove that – like Magic: The Gathering – maybe we hear more about the rise of the competition (and by proxy, the seeming descent of Apple) because Apple is default. Apple is what the market is measured against.

The proof? If someone told you the “next iPhone” looks exactly the same, is somewhat faster, but is a new colour and you don’t have to type in your Apple ID if you don’t want to, would you wait in line all night for it? Well, everyone did, either in front of a store or in front of a computer. It turns out that’s all it took to almost double a sales record. That’s because consumers are still clamouring for Apple products, and it turns out they’re clamouring for the products more than ever.

While you're here, you might also want to read Apple's colourful Asian strategy: The gold iPhone 5S and multi-hued iPhone 5C.