Apple sold a record number of iPhones last quarter, but over 40 percent of those sales were of the older and cheaper iPhone 4S, according to unnamed sources speaking with DigiTimes Wednesday. The claim is similar to reports from earlier in the quarter that cheaper iPhone models still maintained strong demand after the launch of the iPhone 5 in September.
The sources believe that the strong price/performance ratio of the iPhone 4S compared to the iPhone 5 allowed the previous-generation smartphone to continue seeing strong demand in the retail channel and the unexpected outcome has in turn benefited the upstream supply chain of the iPhone 4S.
Apple reported first quarter iPhone sales of 47.8 million during the company’s quarterly earnings call in late January. DigiTimes’ sources claim that the iPhone 4S represented over 20 million of those shipments.
If true, several factors likely contributed to the strong performance of Apple’s 2011-era smartphone. As mentioned by DigiTimes, price is an important consideration. With the launch of each new iPhone, Apple has historically continued to offer previous models at reduced prices. That practice continued with the iPhone 5, as the Cupertino company reduced the price of the iPhone 4S to US$99 and the iPhone 4 to free with a mobile service contract. As Apple continued to expand the iPhone into new markets, these cheaper options may have been more appealing than the pricier iPhone 5.
Another factor is availability. Although the iPhone 5 launch was the widest in the product line’s history, the iPhone 4S was still available in more countries and on more carriers than was the iPhone 5 during much of the quarter.
Although earlier reports confirm that demand for older iPhone models remained strong, there is thus far little information to support the claim of DigiTimes’ sources that shipments were nearly even between the iPhone 5 and its predecessors.
It is also important to note that while longtime Apple supplier Foxconn once manufactured the iPhone 4S, it is now being assembled by competitor Pegatron as Foxconn concentrates on production of the iPhone 5. Rumors of strong shipments of the iPhone 4S relative to the iPhone 5 may be part of a PR battle between the firms.