Yet again, Apple has the last laugh. Following the critical mauling of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus in September ("2014 called – it wants its phablet back crowed the Guardian"), the Californian giant yesterday reminded us that its smartphones still appeal to a segment often overlooked by tech critics – customers.
Apple announced on Tuesday night that it shipped a record 78.3 million iPhones in the three months to the end of December, 5 per cent more than the same period last year and ahead of most analyst forecasts, breaking three straight quarters of declining sales.
The rise in sales came even as numbers fell in China and Hong Kong, with double-digit growth across the United States, Canada, Australia, Western Europe and Japan.
While the company didn’t announced Middle East sales, UAE customers will be happy with the news that a new store is coming to Dubai, almost certainly located in The Dubai Mall
The iPhone 7 Plus proved particularly popular with customers, pushing the average iPhone sales for the quarter to US$694. Not bad going for “2014’s phablet”, with customers seemingly shrugging off Apple’s controversial decision to ditch the ubiquitous 3.5mm headphone socket.
Smartphone sales boosted Apple’s overall revenue for the quarter to a record $78.4 billion, up 3 per cent year-on-year. The image comes to mind once again of Apple executives weeping over negative reviews for the iPhone 7, drying their tears with $100 bills from the company’s staggering cash pile.
Also impressive was an 18 per cent rise in service revenue, including Apple Music, iCloud and the App Store, which looks set to eclipse revenue from Mac computers as Apple’s second-largest income stream.
The coming quarters are unlikely to be quite as rosy for Apple, as holiday season smartphone purchases give way to building expectations for this year’s 10th anniversary iPhone 8, with customers likely to delay purchases until autumn.
So how has Apple managed to bounce back? Analysts and critics will point to the fact that Apple caught the mother of all breaks from its arch rival Samsung, after its iPhone-challenging Note 7 was withdrawn from sale following high-profile flammability issues.
That fortune will extend for a few more months at least, after Samsung decided to hold off announcing a new flagship device at this month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
While that’s true, it’s worth repeating once again the fact that the critical fraternity constantly tends to overlook – Apple’s brand is powerful enough to keep customers coming back again and again, in a way that no other tech brand can replicate, overlooking perceived flaws such as dodgy antennas and a lack of a headphone jack.
Critics might complain that their devices aren't anything special compared with the competition, don't offer significant reasons to upgrade, or, in extreme cases, are aimed at the simple-minded. Most critics (including this one) still rate Samsung's Galaxy S7 Edge as the best phone available on the market today.
As yesterday’s results proved however, customers don’t seem to care too much. It seems as if their love for Apple and their iPhones remains as strong as ever.
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