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B2B channel left “disappointed” as iPhone pre-orders plummet

Alex Yau
September 28, 2015

Dealers predict new releases will not reach the heights of the iPhone 6

B2B dealers say they have been left “underwhelmed” and “disappointed” with Apple’s latest iPhone release, claiming interest from the channel has fallen “significantly” compared with previous years.

The two new devices, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, were unveiled on September 9 during its biggest ever launch event, and were hailed by CEO Tim Cook (pictured) as Apple’s most “advanced ever” thanks to a number of new features and advancements.

However, despite positive reactions from analysts and early reviews from some of the 7,000 packed inside the Bill
Graham Civic Auditorium, dealers say interest has so far failed to reach the heights of previous models, particularly its 6 predecessor.

Managing director of leading O2 partner ADSI Adrian Spreadborough said pre-orders for the device were at least half that of the previous model ahead of it going on sale, last Friday.

“Demand has been lower, a good 50 per cent below the iPhone 6 sales we saw during the same period. We received around 400 orders for the iPhone 6 before launch. We’ve received under 200 for the iPhone 6s.”

Vodafone Gold Partner Next Communications MD Mark Finlayson agreed, claiming the success of the iPhone 6, labelled by Cook as its most successful to date, is unlikely to be topped.

“The iPhone 6 has been their most successful product and I’m not sure we’re going to see much of a clamour for the new phone,” said Finlayson. “There will be orders, but not a lot of people will be going to go bonkers as before. I don’t
think the 6s will sell as fast as the 6 and I think the 6s will have a slower take up. The good news is that the 6 and 5s will drop in price.”

Pneuma Communications service delivery manager Stavros Ellinas said he too was “disappointed” with the device: “My initial reaction was disappointment. Orders for the phone haven’t gone through the roof and hype hasn’t been as big as expected. Personally, I would say sales won’t surpass the iPhone 6.”

The iPhone has been a revelation in the global market since the first incarnation ­debuted in 2007, selling more than 700 million units. Sales of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus alone topped more than 10 million in their opening weekend, beating the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c’s 9 million figure the previous year.

“It’s been a phenomenal year,” said Cook who replaced Steve Jobs as Apple CEO on August 24, 2011. “iPhone 6 is the most popular iPhone ever. In fact, these are the most popular phones in the world. So how do you follow a success like this?”

According to those we spoke with, many of whom requested to remain anonymous through concerns of reprisal from Apple or the networks, Cook’s question is still yet to be answered, with many suggesting the new features lack “excitement”.

Notable inclusions on the new handset include “3D Touch,” Apple’s version of Force Touch. This debuted on the Huawei Mate S which recognises the pressure a user puts on the screen. Examples shown by Cook on stage included the ability to “peek” at emails, messages and photographs without opening the application.

Another feature was the inclusion of shooting 4K videos, which debuted on the Sony Xperia Z2 last year, and delivers four times as much detail as regular HD. The HTC M9, OnePlusOne, Galaxy Note 4, Lumia 930 and the LG G4 have all since included the feature.

Lacking appeal
“The new iPhone 6s is a nice upgrade and technology like 3D touch, harder glass and much faster processor are good things for the market but I don’t see a killer addition in terms of features,” commented Finlayson. “There are improvements, but it’s more evolution than revolution.”

Ellinas added he didn’t see “any features” that would be of benefit to businesses while Spreadborough admitted he was “struggling” to find any “groundbreaking” features.

Fleet Mobile senior sales executive Neil Dowe added while the device will undoubtedly become another big hit for Apple, expectation in business may be on the decline: “Although I personally think features like live photos and 3D touch are nice additions, there aren’t really any features that appeal to new business customers. I don’t think any of the new features are really aimed at businesses. The only one I can really think of doing that is the 4K camera, because it’ll allow them to take higher quality images.”

Another leading dealer, who requested to remain anonymous, suggested Apple may have tried the patience of its “enviable” loyal customer base a bit too far this time. “Customers demand a lot these days and don’t like to be short changed. The iPhone is as much about fashion as it is technology, but when you see what many of the other manufacturers are offering, some at a lower price, Apple is really pushing that loyalty to the limit.”

Not everyone in the industry shared the same skepticism about the new iPhones, however, with many backing Apple to again “smash” sales records (see front page, issue 597).

Spokesperson for online retailer Abby Francis said that despite facing tough competition from Samsung, LG and HTC, additions such as 3D Touch and 4K video as well as the introduction of Apple recycle ‘iPhone Upgrade Programme’ will help Apple keep ahead of the pack.

“Apple is keen to keep hold of its fans and win customers,” said Francis. “The introduction of 3D Touch into the iPhone product line offers exciting ways to interact with our smartphones. User gestures such as taps and holds will allow the iOS 9 software to understand the intent of the user as they request to view content on their iPhone. For a quick peek or a request to see secondary menus, 3D Touch will help iPhone users to get the information they want on the go without waiting around.”

An eventual next step for Apple could be to remove the home button in favour of touch sensors, but considering how rare it is for Apple to make drastic body changes to its models, this would be a significant step.”

Protect Your Bubble director Stephen Ebbett argued that technology like 3D Touch and 4K video on the new iPhone will make other smartphones “seem truly one dimensional” in comparison.

“Having peeked at the new 6s, Apple’s competition will be popping,” said Ebbett. “Increasingly, Apple is fusing biology and technology in the tips of our fingers.”

Retailer John Lewis, a long serving customer of Apple products, also believes Apple has met all expectations, and is confident Apple’s new iPhones can keep up the current momentum generated by the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

The new iPhone models went on sale on September 25 through all major technology retailers and operators, including EE, Vodafone, O2, Three and Carphone Warehouse, Dixon’s Carphone and Apple direct.

The 6s costs £539 for the 16GB model, £619 for the 64GB model and £699 for the 128GB model. The 16GB iPhone 6s Plus will be available for £619, £699 for the 64GB model and £789 for the 128GB model. Both devices are available in silver, gold, gunmetal grey and the new rose gold colour variant.

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