Will Switching to a Three-Year iPhone Cycle Affect Apple?

Last week, Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported that Apple will likely switch the current two-year cycle to a three-year iPhone product refresh cycle. The report said the reason behind this is that the smartphone is already doing what most people want it to do, while a slowing market is also a possible factor. In a new article at ZDNet, it has been shown that the change may actually have no effect on the iPhone sales.

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According to the data shown in the above graph of iPhone quarterly sales, notice how over the past five years how iPhone sales have increased following the release of an updated version, irrespective of whether it was an iPhone X release or an iPhone XS release. This seems to indicate that people love new stuff, but that the new stuff doesn’t have to be all that “newer” than the old stuff it’s replacing.

Yes, sales are stronger for the iPhone X release than the XS, but sales of the iPhone XS models haven’t been particularly weak. So, what about upsides from extending the upgrade lifecycle?

One thing I hear a lot from iPhone owners is “I’ll upgrade next year,” because “there’s always a better iPhone just over the horizon.” And it’s true. By introducing some stability into the system, it might encourage people to upgrade sooner. Another advantage of a longer lifecycle – especially when it comes to the outer design – is that it means that we don’t see crazy shifts every 24 months.

So if Apple does switch to a three-year iPhone cycle, it would be wrong to assume all “doom and gloom” for Apple.

“Technology runs through my veins...” | Follow me: @DrUsmanQ usman@iPhoneinCanada.ca

  • hlna55

    shouldn’t be a hardware issue. All they have to do is slow down the built in product obsolescence that would allow current hardware to run slightly longer 😀

  • In my humble opinion there are 4 types of iPhone buyers:
    1) fanboys that will buy a new iPhone every year regardless of how major or minor the improvements
    2) People that generally think 2 years is a good personal upgrade cycle(2 years is a good amount of time to hold a phone)
    3) The people who hold on to a phone as long as possible until it breaks or is unusable(slow etc)
    4) The people who love iPhones enough to buy them when it is a major upgrade but not yearly like number 1 above.
    If Apple changed to a 3 year cycle, it will not affect groups 1, 2 and 3’s buying pattern and they will be the majority of iPhone buyers. It will only affect group 4

  • jmcd102

    I fit in between 1 and 4. Bought iPhones every year until this year. For me the 6S was not enough of an upgrade in addition to the low exchange rate/ higher prices along with low resale interest for the 6.

    It looks I will be waiting another year which will be a first. I can afford an iPhone, just don’t see the need upgrade yearly anymore. I do think Apple will be affected this year.

  • Aleks Oniszczak

    Yes it will affect Apple, but so what. The interesting question is if it will affect us! And sadly, it will. Apple’s previous rate of innovation has contributed to humanity. Having such easy to use and powerful tools in our pockets and purses is amazing. The iPhone and it’s immitators have given us a real-life Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy plus more. But as they focus more on revenue and less on innovation, we have lost something special. Apple made a mistake moving their brightest engineers over from the iPhone to work on the Apple Watch at the expense of working on something truly great.

  • hlna55

    I hate those publicly traded companies that focus on revenue!!! the nerve of Apple!!! I cant stand it when they do that

  • Aleks Oniszczak

    The revenue came easily when they focused on innovation. The formula is simple – make products that change the world and the shareholders will be laughing all the way to the bank. Not being able to make a significant new iPhone because they now think it’s more lucrative to focus their energy on creating different colour watchbands and cases like half the stores in the mall now do isn’t really forward thinking. Translation – they won’t be making as much revenue for their shareholders; they’ll be making cases and watchbands for Android devices if they keep this up.

  • jay

    With all the nice new phone coming out every year it’s hard to keep even a two year cycle. Maybe a lot people don’t care because they put a case anyways but I hear all the complains already.
    I am not a fan boy but I like the iPhone however the last one I bought and end up in the store after a week because wasn’t anything new for me. Which made me spend so much and same happened to the next one because exchange rate is just to high right now .

  • jay

    Same here you can be my twin

  • Phil

    Just get rid of the s and se between phones and have a new iphone come out every 2 years. Every release should have 3 versions (Pro, Plus, and Mini). Then on the odd years, do the same cycle with ipads.

  • hlna55

    Wow. Amazing that Apple hasn’t figured this one out!

  • Harold Mitchell

    I believe that this would make too much sense !

  • OliChabot

    I don’t think its a good idea. Competitors like Samsung come up with new phones every 6-8months with new features, making the iPhone less appealing. Then, most people are on two-year contracts and hope to get a new design when their contract ends. So a customer may be less interested in an iPhone that looks exactly the same as the one they had 2 years ago…

    Keep the 2 years ratio.

  • Aleks Oniszczak

    Proof is in the pudding. What does 3 year cycle vs 2 year cycle mean? It means they didn’t innovate this cycle. And 3 year cycle is giving them the benefit of the doubt – maybe they won’t innovate next year either. Either way, they are not as good as they used to be.

    Anyway, we both love Apple – we have that in common. If I didn’t
    I would just move on and buy a Nexus phone. But I loved looking forward to their keynotes. I loved getting a new iPhone each year on the first day they came out. I still use my jail broken Apple TV 2, jail broken iPad mini and jail broken iPhone 6 and 2012 Mac mini. Will I buy a new Mac mini? No, they suck – can’t be upgraded any more. New Apple TV? No, it sucks. New iPhone 6S or 7? No, what for? Do I want to buy a new iPad pro? No, I don’t want a half-baked Surface. I bought a real Surface. If Apple is going to copy the Surface keyboard, at least they should have copied the backlit keys. Any, I miss the innovation. Now they just copy badly. Makes me sad.

  • Tony Soresen

    Accept that other companies release annually, and a consumer wants the “latest and greatest”

  • Tony Soresen

    For the first time, I will not be receiving my 2 year hardware upgrade from Apple. Absolutely terrible decision. Maybe Ill purchase from Apple every 6 years when it happens to coincide with hardware upgrade.

  • Tony Soresen

    I fall in the category 2 (being that my providers hardware upgrade cycle is every 2 years) and it will definitely affect my decision. Perhaps I will upgrade through Apple every six years when it happens to coincide with my providers 2 year cycle. Crippling decision.