While the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR were all unveiled at the same time, the 2018 iPhone lineup had a bit of a staggered launch.
The iPhone XS and XS Max officially went up for preorder earlier this month and went on sale last week, but the iPhone XR is still waiting in the wings. The handset just received FCC approval on its path to preorders going live on October 19, so the wait for all the potential future owners out there is shrinking, but it’s certainly still there with just over four weeks to go before the phone actually launches to the public.
A new report from The Wall Street Journal has an interesting theory as to why things are this way, and why Apple actually chose to stagger the launch, rather than being forced to by outside issues. According to the report, Apple decided to give the iPhone XS and XS Max (the most expensive iPhone options this year) some room to breathe before it launched the less expensive iPhone option. Apple, essentially, didn’t want to cannibalize the sales of its pricier models with the handset that costs less but offers up a lot of the same features.
“Last year’s release of the high-end iPhone X came six weeks after Apple’s other two new, less expensive smartphones because of what The Wall Street Journal and others reported were production delays involving its advanced organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, screen.
This year, according to people familiar with Apple’s production plans, the company prioritized production of its two pricier OLED models, the iPhone XS and XS Max, whose prices start at about $1,000. Both will hit stores Friday, followed five weeks later by the least expensive new model, the XR, which has an LCD screen and a starting price of $749.
The staggered release gives Apple a month to sell the higher-end models without cheaper competition from itself. It also simplifies logistics and retail demands and could strengthen Apple’s ability to forecast sales and production of all three models through the Christmas holidays, analysts and supply chain experts said.”
That idea certainly holds water, especially when the alternative is the same old rumors regarding production delays. Every year we hear about production delays at one point or another, and this year wasn’t any different. The separation of the two launches –more than a month apart– is certainly worth noting, too, because it does leave Apple plenty of room to get the focus switched from its pricier options to the iPhone XR in October.
As noted by Daring Fireball‘s John Gruber, this also gives Apple plenty of room to market the handsets separately. Right now the marketing arm of Apple is in full gear to promote the iPhone XS and XS Max, but come October it stands to reason that we’ll see a major push for the iPhone XR. Not that the iPhone XS marketing will die down completely, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Apple put a stronger focus on the iPhone XR instead, at least for a short period of time before the holiday shopping season starts just a few weeks later.
At this point, there’s no way of knowing what Apple was planning or not planning. The company could have learned a lesson from last year’s iPhone X launch, since the pricier model launched well after the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus — but then again, the iPhone X was the company’s most popular iPhone from last year, so that timing may not have had any impact at all.
Would the iPhone XR cannibalize sales of the iPhone XS? It’s certainly possible. After all, that handset isn’t an old iPhone with a price cut. It’s a brand new model with the new design and a lot of the same features the iPhone XS offers, but hundreds of dollars less expensive. Apple did announce the iPhone XS and iPhone XR at the same time, though, so folks who are already planning on going with the latter handset will be waiting for that phone to launch anyway, so the XS’s launch timing really wouldn’t matter.
What do you think Apple did? Did they run into manufacturing issues and were forced to delay the iPhone XR’s launch? Or was this all orchestrated on their end?