Christmas day in the United States is the single greatest day for new smartphone activations. And despite supply chain delays caused by COVID-19, Apple launched its iPhone 12 line—complete with four 5G-enabled devices—just in time for the holidays. While the iPhone 12 series sold well during its initial launch week, November smartphone activations were down in 2020 compared to 2019. In this report, we study how well Christmas Day smartphone activations fared in the United States.
Flurry Analytics is used in over 1 million mobile applications, providing insights from 2 billion mobile devices per month. Let’s check out some numbers.
Lagging Holiday Smartphone Activations
This year’s holiday season has come with extraordinary challenges. Normal visits to shopping destinations have been all but curtailed, forcing the majority of sales online. Unemployment is over 7% and 1 in 3 Americans report difficulty covering usual household expenses. And local governments have asked families to greatly limit holiday gatherings. Due to this year’s unusual circumstances and based on slower-than-normal November smartphone activations, we had forecasted that this holiday season would face decreased demand. With this in mind, let’s compare Christmas day this year to last year.
In the chart above, we show the number of smartphones activated on Christmas Day in 2019 on the left, and Christmas Day 2020 on the right. As you can see, activations this year are down 23% year-over-year, likely due to the financial hardships caused by COVID-19. Another possibility is that because Americans were encouraged to stay home and limit family gatherings, smartphone gift giving could be more spread out across the days before and after Christmas. Note that we’ll report on the full month of December shortly after the New Year to get a more complete picture.
Apple Dominates the Top 10
Although Christmas Day smartphone activations were down compared to Christmas in 2019, make no mistake that a lot of Americans still got new smartphones this Christmas. Let’s see which devices were under the tree this year.
In the bar chart above, we list the ten most activated smartphones on Christmas day. The gray dashed line represents the 7 day average number of daily activations leading up to Christmas and the labels denote the percent change between Christmas day and the trailing average. For example, the iPhone 11 was the most activated device on Christmas day, with activations 5% higher versus the 7 day average between December 18 to December 24. In the case of the iPhone XR, the number of activations on Christmas day was relatively equal to the trailing 7 day average, meaning it was not necessarily a popular gift for Christmas, but remains a popular smartphone for Apple customers.
Apple iPhone devices took nine of the top ten spots, with LG’s budget K30 the only other manufacturer to make the list. Last year’s iPhone 11 takes the #1 spot for the second consecutive year, followed by the 2018 iPhone XR. This year’s most premium device, the iPhone 12 Pro Max takes third place. Typically, Apple’s highest-end devices surge at launch as early adopters rush out to buy the most advanced Apple smartphone available. As the masses slowly replace their old devices, the base model—this year the iPhone 12—typically gains in popularity. But as we reported in an earlier post, the iPhone 12 Pro Max had the strongest launch week out of any Apple iPhone device in the past three years, indicating a strong and long-lasting demand for their most premium smartphone.
Budget Devices Surge on Christmas
Apple’s budget device, the iPhone SE, as well as LG’s K30 saw the largest Christmas day surge compared to the prior 7 day average, with 34% and 181% increases, respectively. In addition, the success of past years’ models—notably the iPhone 11 and iPhone XR—may demonstrate that American consumers were more price sensitive this holiday season. Notably absent from this year’s list is the flagship iPhone 12 mini, which brings the features of the iPhone 12, in a smaller device. With a discount of only $100 compared to the iPhone 12, however, the mini version has yet to catch consumers’ attention.
One thing is certain this year—Holiday 2020 is unlike any other. Between economic hardships caused by COVID-19 and limitations on family gatherings, smartphone gifts are down considerably. Additionally, for those consumers who did gift a new smartphone, many opted for past years’ models likely to save money. We’ll publish our final report on the 2020 holiday season shortly after the New Year. Make sure you follow us on the Flurry Blog, Twitter and LinkedIn to get the full report on December smartphone activations. We wish all of you a happy and prosperous New Year. See you in 2021!
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