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Early Look Into Q3 2019 US Smartphone Sales Shows Weakness, but Apple iPhone Launch Above Expectations

The US market sold through 11.3 million smartphones in August. This is down 4% when compared with August 2018. When looking at how Q3 is shaping up, July and August 2019 volumes are down almost 10% from July and August 2018 volumes. For more details about early insights into the third quarter, please see: Smartphone Sales in Q3 2019 Looking Weak; Apple iPhone Launch Above Expectations.

September is ruled by Apple. Certainly, the handset OEM will be challenged keeping momentum without a 5G offering through H1 2020. However, the opening weeks of the iPhone 11 sales were higher than expected. Some US takeaways include:

  • Retail checks showed that demand for the iPhone 11 devices was stronger this year than last year.
  • During the opening weak and pre-sales, the iPhone Pro Max had the highest demand. The iPhone 11 Pro had the second-highest demand. The iPhone 11 had the least amount of early demand of the three new smartphones.
  • Availability was highest for the iPhone 11. Many shortages were seen on the iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPhone 11 Pro.
  • Counterpoint expects demand to shift towards the iPhone 11, similar to how demand switched to the XR last year after the XS and XS Max received the highest demand by early purchasers.

Samsung had a lot of activity including its first full month of Note 10 sales. Some insights:

  • The S10 remained the top seller of Android flagship smartphone within the major US carriers. However, volumes have been declining.
  • A10 e, A20, and A50 sales have helped fill the gap. Many variants have launched replacing J-series devices.
  • Checks show the Note 10 has had a softer launch this year than last year. The Note 10+ sales have been stronger than the Note 10 out the gate.
  • The Samsung S10 5G remains the top-selling 5G device in the US. Volumes remain muted as it is only selling in meaningful volumes in Verizon. Sprint sales and availability are lower than Verizon. AT&T is not yet offering the device to consumers outside of special case B2B customers. The carrier is only selling it to B2B customers in a very limited manner. T-Mobile is waiting on 600MHz support.

For complete OEM details here is our US Channel Share Tracker.

On the carrier side, the T-Mobile – Sprint merger hit another roadblock. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is investigating Lifeline subsidies given to Sprint. Lifeline is a mobile phone and broadband service provided to low-income customers.

The investigation accuses Sprint of receiving subsidies on 885,000 subscribers it did not have on Lifeline services. The FCC is looking into the abuse. This certainly has paused the approval of any merger until this is fully investigated.

With such a high installed base of iOS in the US and no 5G iOS until 2020, 5G uptake has not been spectacular. Many other moving parts affecting sales. For more details, see: State of 5G USA September 2019.

Jeff Fieldhack

Research Director Jeff has 25+ years experience in technology research, business development, competitive intelligence, and business management. Prior to joining Counterpoint Research, Jeff held various research & product development roles at Microsoft, Nokia, Roth Capital Partners, and Gartner. Jeff is a member of many telecom industry organizations including Colorado Wireless Association, repair.org, CommNexus, and is a regular speaker at major telecom industry events. He was a 4x NCAA all-American in tennis and is a 12-time finisher of the Hawaii Ironman World Championships.

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