There are at least three analytical firms that are tracking the uptake of Apple’s iPhone 6s and comparing them to previous models. Getting a read on how well the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are doing versus the iPhone 5 and 5s may give one a sense of how many Apple iPhones could have been sold but there are pitfalls when using the data.
One of the caveats when trying to be exact with this information is quite obvious when you look at the three graphs as Chitika’s shows much higher usage of Apple’s iPhone 5 shortly after being introduced vs. 6 or 6 Plus while Fisku’s and MixPanel’s show the exact opposite with the iPhone 6 having greater usage than the 5.
Chitika measures each iPhone’s web traffic against the total number of iPhones in use at the time of their respective launches. Its graph shows that the iPhone 5 at 4.8% of North America web traffic ten days post-launch is more than 2 times the iPhone 6’s at 2.3% as of September 28.
However, since there are now more iPhones in use, even in North America, than there were two years ago (roughly 50% more) even if Apple had sold the same number of iPhone 6s as 5s the 6’s ratio would still be less than the 5’s on a percentage basis.
As a point of reference cumulative iPhone sales are helpful to put the growth of the iPhone install base into perspective but it does not take into account retired or broken iPhones. When Apple launched the iPhone 5 two years ago there were about 271 million iPhones that had been sold. When the iPhone 5c and 5s were available there had been about 421 million and with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus there should be approximately 590 million.
The usage of a new Apple iPhone when it comes to web browsing versus app usage shows a striking different view. A new iPhone user probably isn’t going to change their browsing habits however if they want to download apps to populate their iPhone it should drive App usage. However, if this habit is the same between model upgrades that needs to be taken into account when looking at the numbers.
It could come down to the number of Apps people are using now vs. a year or two ago. There are more apps and app usage may be higher than it was previously. If users are using apps more vs. browsing it would drive up app usage relative to previous models and could also help explain higher browser usage in the iPhone 5 in Chitika’s graph.
Below is Fiksu’s chart which shows the iPhone 6’s app usage much stronger than all the previous iPhones. Its trend-line is similar to Chitika’s and MixPanels so it does appear that the overall trend for the iPhone 6 is correct. Also the ratios of the iPhone 6 to 6 Plus in Fiksu’s graph at 4.5x is similar to MixPanel’s 5.3x while Chikita’s is at 7.7x as of September 28. (Note all the data is from 10 days post launch to match up to Chitika’s last data point).
MixPanel also shows the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus trending in similar patterns as Chitika’s and Fiksu’s.
I have included MixPanel’s graph for Apple’s 5c and 5s which show the 5s at 2.35% and the 5c at 0.72% as of the Wednesday 13 days post-launch last year. This compares to the iPhone 6 at 5.02% and the 6 Plus at 0.97%.
There may be too many variables (throw in browser vs. app usage in different countries since the three firms probably have different geographies where they are more entrenched) to use as a data point to determine how many iPhones have been sold. However all three trend lines can be helpful to see the ramp of how many new iPhones are being used and if one could feel comfortable estimating the iPhone install base at various times then you could get a projection of how many iPhones have been sold.
While I suspect readers of this will offer comments on why there is a difference I welcome them to help explain it.