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Apple stock wilts on worries about iPhone demand

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 14, 2013 at 6:19 pm •  Published: January 14, 2013
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Finally, Apple has insisted that wireless carriers subsidize so much of the iPhone's cost in exchange for customers' two-year commitments on data plans that the carriers make little or no money by selling the devices. That has prompted more wireless carriers to tout less expensive Android phones in their stores, undercutting the demand for iPhones, said Darren Hayes, who has been studying the shifting market conditions as chairman of the computing systems program at Pace University in New York.

Through the third quarter of last year, Android devices represented 75 percent of smartphone shipments worldwide according to the research firm International Data Corp. That was up from 58 percent at the same point 2011. Meanwhile, Apple's share of worldwide smartphone shipments has fallen from a peak of 23 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 15 percent in the third quarter of last year.

Samsung Electronics, in particular, has been benefiting from the growing popularity of its Android-powered phones, led by its Galaxy S line. The company said Monday that it sold more than 100 million Galaxy S phones in less than three years. It took the iPhone nearly four years to reach that milestone.

"This is a real wake-up call for Apple," Hayes said. "They need to be more flexible in how they do things." Among other things, Hayes thinks Apple may have to reduce the financial burden on wireless carriers selling the iPhone and spend more money advertising the devices, especially with the recent wave of phones running on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows software. Apple's efforts to sell more iPhones to companies also could be short-circuited if Research in Motion Ltd.'s upcoming release of a revamped BlackBerry proves to be a hit. The BlackBerry is due out Jan. 30.

In an attempt to regain its competitive edge, Apple already is considering the release of a less expensive version of the iPhone made of cheaper parts to boost sales in less affluent countries, according to a report last week in The Wall Street Journal. The company so far hasn't commented on that speculation, either. The least expensive iPhone 5 without a wireless contract sells for $649. With the subsidy included with a two-year wireless service contract, the iPhone 5 sells for as little as $199.

Even as it loses ground to Android products, the iPhone remains a solid seller. Some analysts believe Apple sold more than 50 million iPhones in its last quarter ending in December, which would be far the most units that the company has ever shipped during any previous three-month period.

What's more, the iPhone 5 got off to a torrid start in China, where Apple expects to eventually sell more devices than it does in the U.S. Apple said it sold more than two million iPhone 5s in the three days after its debut in China last month.