In an added twist to Daylight Savings Time, Apple has also reportedly rolled back their iPhones one model by resuming production of the 2017 iPhone X, which was quietly (and apparently prematurely) discontinued during this year’s launch of the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR. While this might seem like a clumsy backwards step for a global corporation that offered the public three new – and ostensibly improved – versions of the same phone a year later, the real story is a bit more complicated as outlined by the Wall Street Journal.
In fact, news of the revival comes after the arguably bigger news that demand for the iPhone XR is lower than expected and has been discounted heavily in Japan, one of Apple’s biggest markets. That may not be such a big surprise. The XR is a weirdly positioned phone, a budget-premium option that straddles the line where consumers decide between the more sophisticated iPhone XS or XS Max and the older but perfectly fine iPhone 7 or iPhone 8.
Low demand is a real concern, but this new, and admittedly early, discount program is a tactic for Apple to make the most of inventory it already allocated for the Japanese market. As one source for the WSJ states, “When extending discounts, Apple has typically chosen to do so on phones made for specific markets because the cost is less than having to reconfigure the device for resale in another market.”
Before we get bogged down with the iPhone XR, let’s step back and look at reports that Apple slashed production on all three 2018 iPhones. Across the board, it appears that low demand for a broader range of new products is wreaking havoc along Apple’s supply chain. Which leads us back to the iPhone X.
The Role Played by Samsung's OLED Screen Displays
Apple first started getting its OLED screen displays from Samsung for the iPhone X last year, and it’s doing the same thing for the iPhone XS and XS Max (The iPhone XR has an LCD screen display). The two companies’ agreement involves Apple buying a certain quantity of OLEDs, so if production of the iPhone XS and XS Max has been cut, Apple may be obliged to buy a lot more screens than it wants. That is unless it finds another use for those OLEDs that saves it from reneging on its deal with Samsung. (Re)enter the iPhone X! Its components are reportedly cheaper to produce and its manufacturing equipment has already depreciated, so Apple is taking the cost-effective route of restarting production of the iPhone X, thus making the tenth-anniversary iPhone less of a fluke in the process.
So…! What’s that mean for phone repair technicians? The obvious answer is that we can expect to see more of the iPhone 7, 8, and X before the iPhone XS and its ilk take over our repair desks. If demand is low and average phone users are slower to adopt the pricier 2018 iPhones, the older phones will continue to stay popular and users may want to hold onto them for longer. Cue screen repairs and battery replacements.
The less obvious answer is, it depends on where you live. As the iPhone XR example illustrates, that particular model was only doing poorly in Japan, thus the discount program. Apple will determine which markets are best for the resurrected iPhone X, and your market may not be one of them.
In any case, with smartphones, it’s always onward and upward, and eventually the new models will supersede the old ones. All we can hope for are longer product life cycles to keep people willing to repair their older devices. And whichever iPhone comes across your desk, you can find the parts you need right here.