What Do the iPhone 4S Sales Figures Tell Us About Consumers?
At four million iPhones sold, the 4S has become Apple's fastest-selling device.
Should we be surprised? Maybe. First Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) bragged that the iPhone 4S had been pre-sold to more than one million consumers. Now, in the weekend following its release, the iPhone 4S has moved four million units across the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Japan and Australia.
Consumers weren't simply buying the iPhone 4S to have a new iPhone. They weren't just buying it for Sprint's (NYSE: S) unlimited data plan (though that certainly helped). They were, from everything we can tell, buying into the hype for Siri.
That hype was greatly enhanced with one 90-second promo:
In this video, Apple promotes Siri as being this amazing tool that responds accurately to every verbal command. That, of course, assumes your commands are on Apple's pre-programmed list. If they're not, you aren't likely to get amazing results.
Apple will tell you that Siri is still in beta and that the service will get better with time. This is probably true. But while the company says “beta” quietly, Apple shouted “revolution!” at the top of its advertising lungs. Consumers heard the shouts loud and clear, rushing to retailers all over the world.
This isn't the first time consumers camped outside to acquire the latest technology. The iPad 2 had its share of long lines. But with that device, consumers knew exactly what they were getting: a faster and thinner version of the original iPad. For most tablet customers, the iPad 2 was an obvious purchase.
The iPhone 4S might seem like more of an anomaly. But let's think back to the last time consumers flocked to retailers in search of something new and exciting.
In 2006, Nintendo (NTDOY) introduced the world to Nintendo Wii. The oddly-titled game console was the first to incorporate motion controls. This feature seemed like a revolution with endless promise. The pre-release trailers were incredible. The hands-on demos were endlessly impressive. And no matter where you turned, you couldn't get away from the insurmountable hype surrounding the console's launch.
This was quite a change from the hype that surrounded GameCube, Wii's predecessor. GameCube was a troubled console that came out too late, did not have enough good games, and arrived at a time when consumers were unhappy with Nintendo (thanks entirely to a slate of delays and disappointing Nintendo 64 games).
But consumers didn't care. Actually, I should say “we” didn't care as I was one of the millions of people who put aside my frustration and rushed out to buy a Wii. And for what, exactly? For newfangled technology?
Ultimately, I ended up loving my Wii. It has a decent amount of great first-party games, a few solid third-party games, and is a much better console than GameCube or Nintendo 64. I suspect that if I were to buy an iPhone, I would love it to death as well. I certainly love my first-generation iPod Touch. The iPhone 4S is, of course, a much faster and much more advanced device than my four-year-old MP3 player. It also has the beauty of going online with or without a Wi-Fi connection – my iPod Touch does not.
But these are the traditional reasons for loving a Nintendo console, and these are the traditional reasons for loving an iPhone. They are not, however, the source of their record-breaking sales. Rather, consumers were guilty of buying into the hope (read: hype!) and promise of new technology.
In a way, you could compare this consumer behavior to those who have experienced love at first sight. They know it's risky, frivolous, and almost certainly destined to fail. But we all dive in anyway, hoping for the best.
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