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September 24, 2014

Is the iPhone 6 Already Losing Steam?

The word seemed pretty clear when it first emerged, that Apple was well on its way with the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. Indeed, its first weekend, at last report from Apple, was one that was a record breaker. CEO Tim Cook described it as “our best launch ever, shattering all previous sell-through records by a large margin.” But after the fervor of iPhone launch weekend died down, Chitika Research's new look at the Apple numbers suggests that, maybe, the iPhone 6 is losing some steam.

It's hard to imagine that there could be a slowing in iPhone sales; between that amazing launch weekend and the equally record-breaking spate of preorders that went into it—reports suggest that the preorders on the iPhone 6 represented fully double the number of iPhone 5 preorders—it was clear a lot of people had Apple on the mind.

Adoption rates for both the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, based on share of North American iPhone Web traffic, are both down against the iPhone 5 and somewhat on the decline within the group. There was a clear upward trend for about the first 15 hours following the device's release, then a sharp drop for the iPhone 6—likely caused by people needing some sleep—then an upward trend about six hours later. But starting at about hour 53 after the release, there was a downward trend for the iPhone 6 that didn't reverse within a couple of hours. Meanwhile, the iPhone 6 Plus stayed fairly static from the moment of its release, never straying from a rather narrow corridor.

But while that may not say much itself, it's the comparisons to the iPhone 5 that are particularly telling. While all three devices are somewhat subject to a “hockey-stick” graph—which is almost an L shape but with a bit more curve to the vertical—the iPhone 5 started off from a higher point than the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus alike. Even combined, the two devices still wouldn't generate the traffic that was generated from the iPhone 5, at any point in the devices' first three days of operation.

That's not to say the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are in trouble by any stretch. These are still quite popular devices making some very big sales. Indeed, by way of comparison, Samsung Galaxy S5 users in North America took better than a week to generate 1.5 percent of smartphone Web traffic on Samsung devices, an achievement the new iPhones managed in just two days, based on reports. The problem here, though, is that it only took the iPhone 5 about a day and half to reach that point.

There are, of course, potential explanations. Supply issues have once again dogged the Apple releases, and that may have something to do with things as some heavier-traffic users may not be in play yet. Maybe the weekend was a little busier than expected and the lawn needed mowing or the like. But there are still plenty of new users in the pipeline, and the device is only just starting to appear.

Still, it's not hard to look at the numbers with a little bit of concern. After all, there's a clear downward progression here, and though at this rate it would take decades before there was a serious problem, the idea of a slow-motion crash is hard to completely shake. Only time will tell how it all shakes out, but it's still a point worth watching.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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