The preliminary numbers are in, and Apple's latest iPhone looks like a pleasant surprise and a dud. It all depends on whom you ask.
Analysts' estimates vary on initial sales of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, underscoring an ongoing debate on whether the model is a hit or merely a bridge to next year's highly anticipated 10-year-anniversary version of iPhone.
On Friday, the glass was half-empty. Investors dumped shares on heavy volume after a market research firm in Germany, GfK, reportedly showed soft sales in Europe for iPhone 7. Apple shares (AAPL), which had climbed 6% since the company's Sept. 7 launch event, lost 1.7% to $112.71 and dragged on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Angelo Zino, senior equity analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence, forecast global sales of 13 million units for the first weekend after iPhone 7 and 7 Plusses hit stores on Friday Sept. 16. He noted Apple was initially shipping the new models to 28 countries this year, compared with a dozen last year, which could further strain supplies, and he predicted low single-digit declines in year-over-year iPhone sales for the September and December quarters.
“I've owned every iPhone since the first, and this is my tipping point. I'm headed to Android,” says Erick Sanchez, 30, a communications consultant in Washington, D.C., who started a petition to bring back the headphone jack missing from iPhone 7. “I love Apple, but I can't believe I'm at a point where I'm charging a phone, a watch, and a set of headphones while other companies are mastering wireless charging.”
But there were also plenty of optimists, sentiment that had buoyed shares for the last week.
"Steady positive news" from the U.S., UK and Japan "implies demand is stronger than thought" for iPhone 7, Nomura analyst Jeffrey Kvaal said in a note Thursday. He now expects Apple to sell 78 million iPhones for its December quarter, eclipsing analysts' consensus of 75 million.
"The travails of the Note 7 can only be helping," Kvaal said, alluding to the recall this month of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 in the U.S. because of instances of burning batteries.
Analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray said iPhone 7 stormed out of the gates in its opening weekend with 14.3 million unit sales, up 10% from the debut of iPhone 6S a year earlier.
"I was hesitant about the new operating system, but I'm happy with it," say Rachel Sobel, a 39-year-old writer in Boca Raton, Fla., who pre-ordered an iPhone 7 Plus to replace her iPhone 6.
Apple chose not to report first-weekend iPhone sales, as it has the past years, because it is "at a point where we know before taking the first customer pre-order that we will sell out of iPhone 7,” Apple said in a statement Thursday. “These initial sales will be governed by supply, not demand, and we have decided that it is no longer a representative metric for our investors and customers.”
Who's buying iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus
A thumb-nail sketch of those buyers reveals deeply loyal Apple customers equally attracted to both models. Nearly all of them — 98%, the highest percentage of iPhone launch customers — already used iPhones. By comparison, the figure was 88% for the launch of iPhone 6S and 90% for both iPhone 6 and iPhone 5S, according to Munster’s report issued Monday.
Meanwhile, more than half, 54%, opted for iPhone 7 and 46% for iPhone 7 Plus -- essentially the reverse of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S launch.
Munster also found 65% of iPhone owners, displeased with modest improvements to the 7, said they won't upgrade to it this fall, up from 56% in July.