Apple quarterly sales

I was traveling for business yesterday, so I’m even later than usual with my take on Apple’s sales. By now, I’m sure you’ve already seen the many charts at MacStories and Six Colors, but I still like to post my own. It gives me a chance to try out new ways of showing the data.

I started out plotting only the four-quarter moving averages because I wanted to show how trends in jumpy data can be better shown through smoothing. Later, I included the raw sales figures but tried to keep them from overwhelming the moving averages. This time, I’ve added a faint dashed line to point out the year-over-year changes in the raw sales data. I’m trying to squeeze more useful information into the graphs without making them so cluttered that the main point is lost.

Here are the unit sales for the devices Apple breaks out individually:

Apple sales

The iPhone dominates this graph, especially since 2013, when the iPad peaked and started its three-year slide. To better see what’s going on with the iPad and the Mac, we need to plot them by themselves.

iPad sales

The iPad is still showing modest gains after bottoming out a little over a year ago. As for the Mac…

Mac sales

Ugh. Everyone has pointed out that this quarter had the worst Mac unit sales since 2010. This is true, but as you can see, the June quarter of 2013 was about as bad—3.754 million units compared to the most recent quarter’s 3.740 million. “Worst quarter since waaay back in 2010” makes for a better story.

I don’t think there’s much mystery to the Mac’s poor sales. As Marco Arment said in a series of tweets today, Apple let its notebook line (which drives Mac sales) go fallow for too long, and it’s caught up with them. I see it as being similar to, albeit less dramatic than, what happened to the iPad during its slide. With the iPad, Apple’s neglect was primarily on the software side; with Mac notebooks, there’s been neglect on both the software and hardware sides.

Even if the quality of the Mac is now improving, and there are good reasons to think it is, sales are unlikely to bounce back for few quarters. These are big investments and it takes time for word to spread. Recall that the iPad sales continued to decline for about a year even after the big improvements that came with the iPad Pro and iOS 9. Sales tend to be a trailing indicator of product quality. This is especially true after your indifference to a product line has trained your customers to be skeptical.