Apple iPhone sales: Global shipments 'down by millions' in Q1 2019

iPhone shipments fell in Q4 2019, but the active installed base of iPhones now exceeds 900 million.

Apple's global iPhone shipments fell by between seven percent and 15 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to analysts who now no longer have access to official unit-sales figures from Apple. 

Apple on Tuesday reported that year-over-year iPhone revenue declined 15 percent in Q1 2019, which covers sales in the three months to December 29. 

It is the first quarter that Apple has not published the number of iPhones sold and follows its seven percent cut in expected revenues from an earlier estimate. Apple yesterday reported $84.3bn in total revenue, down five percent from the corresponding quarter in 2018. 

In the absence of official figures from Apple, analyst firms have published their own estimates. Analyst firm Canalys reports that Apple shipped 71.7 million iPhones in Q4 2018, marking a 7.3 percent decline on the 77.3 million it shipped in the same quarter in 2017.   

Canalys estimates that Apple shipped 22 million units of the iPhone XR, 14 million units of the iPhone XS Max, and nine million units of the iPhone XS.   

However, Strategy Analytics reports that Apple shipped an estimated 65.9 million iPhones worldwide in the fourth quarter, representing a 15 percent decline on the same quarter a year ago. 

It attributes the sharp fall in iPhone shipments to Apple's high retail pricing, unfavorable foreign exchange rates, competition from rivals like Huawei, and Apple's $29 battery-replacement program. 

SEE: Apple iOS 12: An insider's guide (free PDF)

Other factors negatively impacting iPhone sales included smaller carrier subsidies in some developed markets, such as Japan, and weak demand in emerging markets.   

"Apple iPhone has an Asia problem," wrote Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston. 

While Apple did not report iPhone unit sales for the quarter, it did for the first time reveal its active installed base of iPhones, which now exceeds 900 million. Apple CFO Luca Maestri said in a call with analysts that the active installed base of iPhones grew in all regions, totaling 75 million in the past 12 months. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook yesterday said the active installed base of all Apple devices reached 1.4 billion. Maestri said the overall global active installed base grew 100 million in the past 12 months. 

The active installed base is a key driver for Apple's ambitions to grow its services business, which grew by 19 percent in the quarter to a record $10.9bn.

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