Analysing the success of the iPhone 5

By September 19, 2012Apple

The launch of the iPhone5 has been a big success. First day sales are higher than for previous versions of the device and Apple’s share price is up, and forecast to go much higher. People are saying that Apple has ‘perfected the iPhone‘.

And, to be fair, it is a very solid device and Apple’s launch process has been immaculate. To launch in 100 countries by the year end is amazing.

But there are two important factors which make me think the current success is qualitatively different to the success of previous iPhones (particularly the 3 and 4);


  • the iPhone 5 is only an incremental improvement over the 4S
  • people who have bought the new iPhone already mostly decided to do so before details of the device were released – i.e. their decision was based more on Apple’s brand than their product


These facts leave me wonding if Apple’s brand is now getting ahead of it’s products. When that sort of divergence arises it doesn’t persist for long, especially these days. I remember being taught early in my career that a ‘good brand is a good promise delivered’, and part of Apple’s brand promise has been revolutionary new products. We haven’t seen one of those for a while now – probably since the iPhone4 (2010) or the iPad2 (2011),



  • Scott

    I think that previous devices have also been incremental improvements. The response to the iPhone 4S launch was even more negative than that of the iPhone 5.

    There are other possibilities – my view is that the press, especially the gadget blogs have very different priorities than the general public. The blogs need to be impressed by new features and functionality while the public seem much happier with the gradual improvements. On top of this is the fact that most of the iPhone 5 purchases will probably be upgrades from the iPhone 4 as people reach the end of their two year contracts. Of course, there will be a significant minority who will get a new iPhone each year (and these will want them on launch day) but once this launch weekend is over it’s going to mainly upgrades.

    Coming back to the promise of ‘revolutionary new products’ I think the opposite is true. Apple have launched few new revoltionary new products (iPod, iPhone, iPad and the possibly the MacBook Air). I think Apple are more focused on taking an existing product so that it gets incrementally better at every release.

  • The iPod, iPhone, and iPad is a pretty amazing line up of revolutionary products. Some of the increments have also been impressive, e.g. the Shuffle and App Store.
    I agree that the other, possibly more important, part of their promise is great design and engineering.