Ever since J.R. Ewing took a bullet in 1980, the summer has been the season for speculation. Even though we all binge-watch television now and episodes show up in 12 episode blocks once a year (making the notion of a summer cliffhanger a little anachronistic), luckily for the mainstream news media, usually summer has all kinds of good things to wonder about.
However, sometimes a season can disappoint, as it did this week and as it usually does in July of odd numbered years. With no important elections, sporting events or major weather disasters officially on the schedule or immediately forthcoming – the summer sport of speculation has been imperiled this week. This has left the professional speculators in the media and all the armchair hobbyists with three choices:
• What is going to melt down the international economy faster: China or Greece? (The answer is China — check out the Saturday feature tomorrow to find out why.)
• Will Donald Trump survive the summer as a GOP presidential candidate?
• What’s Apple up to?
The answer to the latter question is mostly more upbeat — and in the absence of sports, meaningful political debate or an impending disaster when pondering the state of Apple, there are several subthemes:
• What’s the scoop with the iPhone 6S?
• Do people really like the Apple Watch?
• Are there any banks left in this country that have not signed on with Apple Pay?
PYMNTS has the answers — or, more accurately, the most interesting speculations here.
New iPhones Are Coming! Definitely! (Probably?)
While it seems like it was only yesterday that the lines for the iPhone 6 finally dispersed, it seems that Apple fans may soon be queuing up again for the latest iteration of the smartphone that launched an entire mobile ecosystem.
What exactly it will be, what it will be made out of, how big it will be and when exactly its release date will be are all the subject of a very active Internet discussion. So far there is limited consensus.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Apple was set to produce a record-breaking number of new phones, likely in advance of a new product launch. According to the reports, Apple has asked suppliers to create between 85 million and 90 million units combined of two new iPhone models with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays by Dec. 31. By comparison, Apple ordered 70 million iPhone 6 units (which have the same screen sizes as the specs rumored for the new releases) for its release. Apple officially declined to comment on the numbers.
Apple is known to run on what’s known as a “ticktock” product cycle wherein redesigns are introduced in tick years — whereas refinements and software upgrades are released in “tock” years.
Since the iPhone 6 is considered a redesign — and therefore in process parlance, a “tick” year product – one could surmise that refinements aka iPhone 6S versus iPhone 7 would be released in the fall.
The speculation gets even more interesting from there, with several sites running with a headline that Apple was also returning to its 4-inch screen roots with a secret 6C model being manufactured by a fourth Chinese manufacturer. And while this was a popular story, its original source seems to be a gaming blog that briefly cites unnamed sources in Taiwan.
It is worth noting that this is the second or third time the “return of the 4-inch screen rumor has made the rounds, though to date no manufacturer will admit to making a 4-inch screen for Apple.
(As if they really could even if they wanted to!)
Apple Watch: Fizzling Or Sizzling?
This week has seen a weirdly emerging piece of consensus about the Apple Watch.
The story started last week when Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves indicated that Apple Watch sales had trailed off from initial levels.
Hargreaves cut his FY15 sales estimates by half a million units, to a total of 10.5 million units. For FY16, he estimated a cut of 3 million units to land at a total of 21 million watches to be sold in the next fiscal year.
Then, coming back from the Fourth of July, market research firm Slice Intelligence released their Apple Watch numbers, which were a shade darker. According to the report, Apple Watch sales have declined about 90 percent since their April release — going from an average of about 200,000 units sold per day to an average of about 20,000 units sold per day.
The story was picked up by MarketWatch and generated the expected number of stories wondering if Apple had its first flop of the Tim Cook era on its hands.
By the end of the week, however, the Empire of Apple fans had struck back — taking Slice’s results to task. AppleInsider called Slice’s numbers questionable in more than one article this week, and offered a lengthy exegesis of why Slice’s numbers were drawn from a “metric that fails to account for demographic spread, sample viability and other factors that would yield accurate figures.”
The short form is that Slice’s numbers are drawn from a voluntary pool of eCommerce users and are not screened in a way that makes them seem likely to be representative of anything important. Given that they are wildly out of sync with even pessimistic analyst sales models, AppleInsider officially recommends taking Slice’s figures with a “grain of salt.”
AppleInsider also notes that even at 20k units per day, Apple Watch is powerfully outselling every other smartwatch on the market at present. It is highly successful by smartwatch standards, just not by normal Apple standards.
Sort of like saying it’s the best selling product in a lackluster product category. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
This data also come on the heels of an article that describes the lifecycle of a Fitbit and other fitness trackers as six months. They seem to be the sort of products that sound good, are worn initially with good intentions, yet get relegated to the dresser (or dresser drawer) after, well, six months. Apple Watches are much more expensive at the outset, which sort of puts it in the category of “I better be committed to this device since it is going to set me back a lot of money.” True that the features and functions of an Apple Watch are far more than what Fitbits and fitness trackers deliver, but it’s the same idea: an electronic gizmo that you wear that does stuff that other devices do and you have to commit to.
Apple Pay And Another 23 Banks
Big bank users have more or less been able to access Apple Pay since Day 1. For those using small regional banks and credit unions, well, some of them are in a race to see if they will be able to use their debit card in Apple Pay before the average British citizen can on July 20.
Good news for the customers of 23 regional banks this week: They have officially won the race with the British.
The added unions (in alphabetical order) include: American Chartered Bank, Bank-Fund Staff Federal Credit Union, Bellco Credit Union, EFCU Financial, First Federal, First National Bank, Healthcare Systems FCU, Keesler FCU, Kemba Credit Union, Members 1st FCU, NorthStar Credit Union, Parsons FCU, Pinnacle Bank, Randolph-Brooks FCU, Service Credit Union, SRP FCU, SUMA (Yonkers) FCU, Tampa Bay FCU, Tennessee Valley FCU, Tri County Area FCU, Trona Valley FCU, United Teletech Financial, and Winthrop Area FCU.
And while Apple is certainly happy to grab the banks, they would probably like it even better if they could pick up a Tier 1 merchant or two, though that did not happen this week.