Why Apple's iPhone 6s and 6s Plus sales record doesn't tell the whole story

You know where you stand with Apple and the iPhone. Every year a new model arrives in September. You get an updated flagship (an 's' model on alternate years), and a spin off version (the 5c, the Plus) for a bit of extra revenue.

Then, shortly after the new iterations go on sale, you get an announcement from Apple declaring a new weekend sales record.

At some point this record breaking run will end, although it’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Apple has announced more than 13 million iPhone 6s and 6s Plus have been sold around the world. It’s a huge achievement, and blows past last year’s numbers, but all is not as it seems.

13 million is unquestionably a LOT of devices - especially as there are still plenty of markets that don’t have the new iPhones on sale yet. 40 additional countries, including Italy, Mexico, Russia, Spain and Taiwan, will be added to the list of available territories by 9 October (by the end of the year the new iPhones will be offered in over 130 countries).

But here’s the rub…

If you don’t recall last year’s numbers, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus sold 10 million units across the launch weekend, up from the 9 million the 5s and 5c managed the year before. This year’s 13 million is quite a step up, although it’s not tricky to pinpoint the reason for the leap.

Sure, the new iPhone is a marked improvement over its predecessor, but the biggest reason for the improved sales is that for the first time Chinese customers are able to pick up the latest version on the same day as consumers in the US, UK, and certain parts of Europe and Asia. When you consider the size of the Chinese market, suddenly the increase over last year’s figures doesn’t seem quite so impressive.

"Sales for iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus have been phenomenal, blowing past any previous first weekend sales results in Apple’s history", said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. "Customers’ feedback is incredible and they are loving 3D Touch and Live Photos, and we can’t wait to bring iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus to customers in even more countries on October 9".

The iPhone 6s and the 6s Plus are a huge hit, and there was never any doubt they would be. But the record breaking numbers are as much down to strategic shipment planning at Apple as they are to consumer excitement.

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