Apple is widely expected to release new iPhones this fall, including a rumored iPhone with an OLED screen and other advanced features. However, recent reports indicate Apple may not begin shipping its new phones until later than normal during the third quarter—and that, according to one analyst estimate, could create a significant drag on wireless carriers’ third quarter smartphone sales and overall revenues.
Specifically, BayStreet Research recently predicted that, partly due to the rumored delay in the new iPhone’s availability, U.S. iPhone sales will fall roughly 10% in the third quarter of this year when compared with the third quarter of last year.
And for the nation’s major wireless carriers—Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint—that iPhone delay could reduce their overall combined third quarter postpaid smartphone sales by fully 11% in the third quarter, when compared with the year-ago quarter.
“With the increasing likelihood of a delayed launch of the OLED variant of the three iPhones launching this fall, we have adjusted our 2H17 forecast,” BayStreet noted in a recent report, explaining that fully 40% of new flagship iPhone sales could be pushed into the fourth quarter of 2017. “We believe lost sales will be minimal as long as the delayed device launches before mid-November. However, losses could increase meaningfully if Apple were to miss the Black Friday promotion period.”
For the past decade, Apple has released a new iPhone every fall. That event has grown into a major annual touchpoint for wireless carriers keen to upgrade existing customers to a new, expensive device (an action that typically ties those customers to that carrier until they pay off their phone). Carriers also look to major smartphone launches, and iPhone launches particularly, as an opportunity to steal customers away from rivals with deep discounts or promotions.
Indeed, BayStreet noted that postpaid smartphone sales among the nation’s four largest wireless carriers grew a whopping 19% year over year in the third quarter of 2013, largely thanks to the release of Apple’s newest iPhone. In 2014, that figure grew 7%, but was flat in 2015 and down 6% last year (potentially due to Apple’s relatively minor iPhone updates during the past two years as well as customers’ growing indifference to new, flashy smartphones).
Nonetheless, expectations are high for Apple’s expected iPhone release this year. According to various reports, the company’s next flagship smartphone could feature a radical new design, updated OLED display, wireless charging and a vertically aligned dual camera. Such updates would represent the first major changes to the device since Apple released the redesigned iPhone 6 in 2014.