Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Maintaining the Narrative

Andrew Orlowski, the Register:

One day Apple may look back on its great iPhone X adventure and view it as an embarrassing midlife crisis, like running off with the au pair.

The iPhone 8, based on a four-year-old design, was the best-selling phone in the world in May, according to Counterpoint Research. Samsung’s Galaxy S9 Plus took second place. The X still sold well, but in third place.

Counterpoint Research attributes the success of the iPhone 8 to new advertising, but it’s also worth noting that the 8 and 8 Plus got the Product Red treatment this spring. Even so, May marks the first month since its launch, the iPhone X was not the best-selling iPhone model in the lineup, and the Register is treating this as confirmation that the iPhone X is a mistaken experiment. Even in this two-paragraph excerpt, Orlowski transitions from calling the iPhone X an “embarrassing midlife crisis” to acknowledging that it sold well.

Orlowski, later in this article:

The X is far from a flop, but Cook acknowledged it wasn’t the runaway success Apple wanted. Apple faced many questions about inventory on its most recent earnings, claiming that the lower-than-hoped demand had resulted in component glut (mostly someone else’s problem) rather than an iPhone X glut (definitely Apple’s problem).

No, you don’t have a giant gap in your memory: I looked for any indication that Tim Cook had ever stated that the iPhone X didn’t sell as well as expected — which would be quite the story — and can’t find anything matching that. The link on “acknowledged” goes to another story Orlowski wrote summarizing an anaylist’s research note issued ahead of Apple’s Q2 2018 conference call, where Cook confirmed that the iPhone X’s sales were strong every week since it launched. That linked article does not contain a single mention of Tim Cook.

I know that the Register is just a tabloid, but it’s also widely-read, and this is a clear example where the story is being driven by the narrative that the iPhone X is a flop. Orlowski so desperately wants that to be true, apparently, but I don’t understand why. What difference does it make to him which iPhone model is selling better?