Apple’s annual iPhone updates are usually so popular that they send the wireless carriers into a frenzy of price cutting and promotional offers to entice customers to switch networks. Last year, the major carriers twice offered free iPhone 7 promotions: First in September when the phone launched, and again around the Black Friday holiday shopping period.
But this year’s iPhone 8 line has landed with a bit of a dud, undercut by the fancier and pricier iPhone X that won’t be available until November. Only the new model has a redesigned exterior body and a higher-quality OLED display. And while iPhone 8 models have improved cameras and processors from the iPhone 7, Apple also raised prices. Carriers have reported very slow sales of the iPhone 8 and Apple’s website shows less of a backlog wait to get one of the new models than in prior years.
With most of the discounts on the already-not-so-exciting iPhone 8 only at $300 or so with a trade-in, consumers aren’t seeing much reason to defect just to get a good deal. That’s likely suppressing switching activity big time, analysts say.
“Commentary suggests a relatively benign competitive quarter despite the launch of a new iconic device,” Jefferies analyst Mike McCormack wrote in a report on Thursday, using Wall Street’s preferred euphemism for the new iPhone. “Given rationality in promotions, and probable impact from the recent hurricanes, we (are expecting) modestly lower handsets and upgrade activity across the industry.”
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T-Mobile (tmus) has the most to lose, as it usually adds the most new customers per quarter. It may gain only 635,000 regular monthly phone subscribers in the third quarter, McCormack said, down from the 900,000 he was previously expected. AT&T (t), Sprint (s) and Verizon (vz) will also see smaller gains, but not to the same degree.
Wall Street had been expecting that Apple (aapl) and the carriers would benefit from a “super cycle” of iPhone 8 sales this year, as more customers had forgone upgrades the past two years. Now that may all come down to just how many people are holding out for the iPhone X and how many Apple can produce.