The Incredible Migration to the iPhone 6 That Didn’t Actually Happen

Apple just reported an absolutely stellar, blockbuster quarter. An incredible success of increasing revenues, profits, and average selling prices. The company is riding a train of unbridled and well-deserved success. These are record-breaking results.

I pay attention to this, of course, because these mobile platforms are a huge component of the technology world, and the trends and patterns of the market are of great importance. One of the most important computing devices we make use of is the one that we carry around with us.

And Apple keeps executing well. The iPhone 6 and 6+ are superlative devices. One mistake many commentators make when analyzing the smartphone market, often changing the parameters for various self-serving reasons, is the recurring claim that Apple doesn’t fight hard on the “specs” front. But Apple is on the leading edge with virtually every release.

They win or are very competitive on most specs, with great processors, excellent cameras, top of line GPUs, the best displays, the fastest RAM, and so on. Even tertiary things that seldom appear on benchmarks, such as NAND storage speed, show Apple absolutely wiping the floor with competitors. With the enormous bounty they are pulling in, concerns rise that they’ll be able to entrench themselves into even more of a lead, buying up component makers and production runs.

They have to do something with that enormous and growing treasure chest.

They make great devices. There are great devices from competitors, of course, but somehow they always manage to stumble in the most ridiculous, self-defeating way, always with some critical Achilles heal: Maybe it’s a miserable camera sensor (a $5 part that makes or breaks the device). A dim screen. A miserable battery life. Vendor crapware that ruins the experience. And so on.

In any case, while we knew the 6(+) was a blockbuster, I found the recent headlines that 85% of iPhone 6(+) buyers came from other platforms, most Android, completely unbelievable. You probably saw this headline as it made the rounds on Facebook, LinkedIn, and elsewhere. While a lot of egg-on-face media outlets are busy surreptitiously rewriting and changing headlines (seldom with any notice of an edit), it was reported far and wide.

It doesn’t pass the most cursory of sniff tests. It is something that anyone with any experience in this industry had to immediately put under question, the claim so absurd. This isn’t the first time ridiculous claims were reported on with unabashed naivety.

In actual reality, what Tim Cook said was that only 15% of existing iPhone owners had upgraded thus far, his point being that there is a large base of future iPhone 6 customers awaiting their upgrade window. That there are plenty more customers to be served: I have no idea what the current active iPhone user base is, but given that some 600 million+ iPhones have been sold, the number has to be quite large.

As is a recurring issue, Cook’s statement was grossly misreported and extrapolated to somehow mean that 85% of customers migrated from other platforms, primarily Android. This would be incredible if true, and would posit a mass migration. But it isn’t true, and didn’t happen. Some reporter did some flawed math on misunderstood numbers, and that headline was the result.

It remains a vibrant, multi-vendor world, with competing and evolving concepts and designs that draw from the best of each other. That’s good for everyone.