“We never set out to make the most, but we’ve always set out to make the best products that make a difference,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the time. “Thank you to everyone at Apple for helping change the world every day.”
That one billion figure was for total sales—meaning that if you have purchased five iPhones over the years, that counts as five sold. But how many people are using iPhones, right now?
According to one analyst, that number is now over one billion.
“According to my estimate, Apple surpassed the billion iPhone users milestone last month,” Neil Cybart of Above Avalon wrote this week in a blog post. “Thirteen years after going on sale, the iPhone remains the perennial most popular and best-selling smartphone.”
Cybart determined that in combining the number of users who have bought or continued to use an iPhone from Apple itself or an authorized reseller, or those who have bought such a device on the “grey market,” where the total number is currently over one million.
“Although Apple does not disclose this installed base figure on a quarterly basis, the company did mention that the iPhone installed base surpassed 900M devices by the end of FY1Q19… the iPhone installed base has grown each year since launch and recently surpassed a billion people,” Cybart said. The base was eleven million in 2008, 569 million in 2015, 948 million in 2019 and over one billion this year, per the report.
According to a chart included in Cybart’s report, sales of iPhones gradually rose between 2008 and 2016, hitting an all-time high that year, before dropping back down to just over 200,000 units sold per quarter through around 2018. Sales started to drop around early 2019, due to “deteriorating market conditions in China,” before improving again, although the coronavirus pandemic caused another dip.
That’s not the full story, however.
“Flat to down iPhone unit sales do not automatically mean iPhone business fundamentals have deteriorated,” the report said. “Instead, a longer upgrade cycle can be a leading factor behind declining unit sales. In addition, unit sales don’t say anything about customer loyalty and satisfaction rates, which are crucial when it comes to a customer’s decision to continue using a product.”
Over time, fewer and fewer sales of iPhones have been to new iPhone users, while more of them have gone to upgraders. While Apple welcomes twenty to thirty million iPhone users each year, that’s become less of the overall base of iPhone users over time.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.