Neil Cybart: Apple hit 1 billion iPhone users last month

A tale of renewed unit sales growth—and a new peak iPhone—told in four charts.

From “A billion iPhone users” posted Monday on Above Avalon:

According to my estimate, Apple passed the billion iPhone users milestone last month. Thirteen years after going on sale, the iPhone remains the perennial most popular and best-selling smartphone. Competitors continue to either shamelessly copy iPhone or, at a minimum, be heavily influenced by the iPhone. Looking ahead, Apple’s top priorities for the iPhone include finding ways to keep the device at the center of people’s lives while at the same time recognizing the paradigm shift ushered in by wearables.

As shown in Exhibit 1, iPhone unit sales on a trailing twelve months basis dropped by about 12% in early 2019 from a 218 million annual pace to a 191 million pace.

Instead of looking at sales just in terms of the number of units shipped from a factory, Exhibit 2 takes into account who bought iPhones: customers upgrading to a new iPhone or customers buying their first new iPhone.

By combining the two groups, one is able to derive estimates for the total number of iPhones in the wild.

In FY2015, Apple sold 231 million iPhones. There continues to be a debate regarding whether or not Apple experienced “peak iPhone,” never exceeding that 231 million unit sales total in a 12-month stretch.

Odds are increasing that Apple has not experienced peak iPhone. As shown in Exhibit 4, my FY2021 iPhone unit sales estimate stands at 240M units, 4% higher than Apple’s previous iPhone sales record.

My take: Cybart, a multiple Apple Earnings Smackdown winner, maintains one of the best Apple sales databases. For access, and to subscribe to his daily Above Avalon updates, click here.


  1. Fred Stein said:

    Imagine the first chart normalized for Apple’s buybacks, maybe phones / 1M shares outstanding.

    The growth in Installed Base speaks volumes.

    And, the charts don’t count the units sold on the used iPhone market.

    October 27, 2020
  2. Jerry Doyle said:
    Neil Cybart is in a league of his own when it comes to understanding, analyzing and reporting on Apple, the company. Neil knows Apple’s past performance, giving him insightful understanding where Apple is today and a penetrating awareness where Apple will be tomorrow. Neil says, “…. Over time, we can’t ignore the new user growth potential found with Apple wearables. Apple Watch remains on its march to full independency from the iPhone. A truly independent Apple Watch would expand the product’s address market by threefold. AirPods are similarly well-positioned for appealing to Android users around the world.”

    Neil knows too, that Apple is closer to launching its face wearables strategy. The future is “wearables,” and this is where Apple is heading. As Neil himself correctly and knowledgeably understands, “…. while the iPhone may have been responsible for Apple getting to a billion users, wearables have a decent shot of getting Apple to two billion users.” Wow! No one else to my knowledge is talking this up as they should be doing.

    As Neil correctly shines the spotlight on Apple’s new path to growth it is “wearables” making technology more personal and in so doing, the product category’s addressable market will only expand. Apple’s best days lies ahead!

    October 27, 2020
    • Fred Stein said:
      Well said, Jerry, strongly agree.

      Wearables are the next generation (downsizing) of computing. Apple alone, has a platform strategy and the products.

      October 27, 2020
  3. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    I’ll be so bold as to mention, if you don’t at least follow Neil Cybart and Horace Dediu, you can’t really consider yourself a comprehensive Apple follower.

    Cybart for the heartbeat of Apple.

    Dediu for the theory and performance of that heartbeat.

    October 29, 2020

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