During its fourth quarter earnings call, Apple made a surprise announcement, dealing a major blow to analysts and data enthusiasts such as ourselves: going forward, the company will not be sharing unit sales figures for its products. For the past few years, analysts and investors have tended to focus their attention on one number, iPhone sales, and Apple apparently no longer wants its entire business to be reduced to that one indicator.
“Our product ranges for all the major product categories have become wider over time and therefore a unit of sale is less relevant for us at this point compared to the past because we’ve got these much wider sales prices dispersion,” the company’s CFO Luca Maestri pointed out during the call, omitting another aspect that may have contributed to the decision: looking at unit sales makes Apple look worse than looking at revenue.
When smartphone sales (naturally) started to slow down due to market saturation and slower technological progress, Apple decided to delve even further into the premium segment, bringing its average iPhone selling price to unprecedented heights and reaccelerating growth in its iPhone business. There is a disconnect though: while revenue growth has sped up with the release of the iPhone X, unit sales growth has remained flat. As the following chart shows, iPhone unit sales and revenue growth have been pretty well-aligned over the years. That is no longer the case and Apple wants us to focus on the number that is more likely to be positive going forward.