Was the Apple iPhone 7 launch a success?

Thomas Wellburn
September 13, 2016

The Apple iPhone 7 launch has been and gone, but the reception seemed pretty hostile this year.

Social media figures seem to suggest people were less interested, while analyst opinions have been mixed, with some predicting strong sales due to the Apple brand and others feeling somewhat underwhelmed.

The hard stats

Apple iPhone 7 launch

Comparing this Apple iPhone 7 launch with that of the iPhone 6 last year, figures amassed by social analytics company Brandwatch show that it amassed only 10% of the Twitter mentions in the 7 days leading up to launch. On the launch day itself, mentions were only down by roughly 3% on the previous year, though the major talking point was criticism of the headphone jack removal. Interestingly, peak mentions was higher for the Apple iPhone 7 launch than the 6, averaging 99,940 mentions per hour versus 27,850. The results seems to show that although interest waned in the run up to launch, it was actually more successful on the day than the past event for overall traffic.

This is only one way to interpret the data however, as a large amount of Twitter users seemed underwhelmed with the latest models. A quick TweetDeck search for the hashtag #iPhone7 showed a general dislike for the headphone jack removal, though there was still many users claiming they would buy the handset despite the move. The Jet Black finish went down well with the public, as did the waterproofing.  These seemed to be the two most popular topics. This is in line with the social media statistics we received, which claim the three most popular topics were: headphone jack, new colours (black) and the improved home button.



Analyst reactions

Apple iPhone 7 launch

Analyst reactions were mixed but on the whole positive, with most claiming that the Apple brand will help drive sales despite any negative preconceptions. Those who did criticise the Apple iPhone 7 launch mainly argued that the device was not the technology leap we had hoped, with some of the design decisions leaving loyal users behind.

The removal of the headphone jack was once again a major talking point, with some analysts failing to see the significance. Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch, said: “The loss of the headphone jack is likely to divide opinion. The pricey AirPod earphones are part style statement, part practicality, but Apple just didn’t seem to land a persuasive justification for the bold move. The headphone adaptor helps bridge the gap, but suggests a lack of commitment to something touted as a courageous step.”

Doku also called the iPhone 7 an “iterative device”, stating that it was not the pivotal launch needed to avoid falling fortunes and catch market leaders Samsung: “Despite being touted as a credible numbered sequel, it was difficult to escape the feeling that the iPhone 7 is very much an iterative device rather than the step change needed to allay concerns of falling fortunes.

“Only time will tell if this is the model to help Apple to break away from Samsung, which is aggressively biting at their heels with a strong line-up in the Galaxy S7 and Edge.”

Richard Stiennon, Chief Strategy Officer at Blancco Technology Group, believes that the decision to leave traditional headphone users behind won’t effect sales too badly: “when it comes to Apple, people tend to follow what the company puts out. I anticipate users will buy connectors to attach their older accessories when they buy the new iPhone 7.”

It is worth nothing that for legacy users who still wish to enjoy their older headphones, Apple will be providing a connector in the box as standard. The only issue seems to be charging the device while listening to music, where users will need to buy an optional Belkin-partnered adapter costing yet another £35.

Ben Wood, chief of insight as CCS, talked to our sister publication Mobile News and seemed more positive: “Although some may view the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus as incremental improvements, Apple has proven many times over that iteration wins when underpinned by the Apple brand, installed based and ecosystem.”

Apple has never been a leader

Apple iPhone 7 Launch

Contrary to what people think, Apple has never been the dominant mobile operating system worldwide. During 2007-2008 it was Symbian who was king, with over 60% of the global market at their highest point. It wasn’t until the the beginning of 2009 when the Accenture developed operating system was kicked back down to earth by the current king, Android. In the space of 24 months, the operating system went from roughly 50 percent share to just under 20 percent. Android on the other hand rose from almost zero percent to an astonishing 50 percent, completely eating the market whole. Where was iOS during all of this? It was a comfortable third, initially trailing behind the BB OS and Symbian before Android gained momentum.

The turning point for iOS was Q3 2011, when both BB OS and Symbian drifted into the sub 20 percent share, leaving Apple to snap up second place by the fourth quarter of the same year. Steve Jobs placed the company as a premium manufacturer and something that people wanted to buy based on presence, while Android gained traction largely due to its implementation into budget devices which targeted developing markets. This is a trend we’re still seeing today and is one reason that the operating system continues to command global share, with 85 percent share in China.

Was the Apple iPhone 7 launch a success?

Apple iPhone 7 launch

Gauging the various reactions, it seems that Apple has done okay. With the iPhone 7 being the biggest smartphone launch this year, public expectations were obviously pretty high. Most of the hardware had been previously leaked across the internet which probably contributed to a general disinterest during the run up to launch, though the same could arguably be said for last year. The removal of the headphone jack will obviously be a major talking point of the Apple iPhone 7 launch going forward, as users debate whether the trade-off is worth the supposed benefits.

In the months going forward, Apple needs to focus on reassuring new and existing users that the feature won’t interfere too much with their current headphones, while also focusing on the other impressive highlights such as waterproofing. Recent pre-orders at U.S. mobile carrier T-Mobile show that it has already done better than the iPhone 6 and there’s no doubt that Apple can still sell on the name alone but as the past two financial quarters have shown, the company is no longer invincible. A stronger marketing strategy is now needed rather than the passive approach that the company usually takes.

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