December is by far the highest month for new device activations in the United States. Elevated device activations begin around Black Friday, peak on Christmas Day and remain elevated through New Year’s Day. Combined, this forms an extended, appreciable wave of new smartphone activations across the month. In this report, we share how December 2020 smartphone activations fared against the backdrop of slumping retail sales during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
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 2020 will mostly be remembered for COVID-19, it was also a year of tremendous resilience. Teachers and schools around the world transitioned from in-class learning to full-time distance learning in a matter of weeks. Workers created home offices and took to meeting on Zoom instead of in conference rooms. People found ways to exercise outside of the gym with apps and peripherals like Peloton. And the mobile industry is poised for meaningful transformation in 2021.
The holiday season in the U.S. between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a critical sales period for smartphone manufacturers. From 2016 to 2018, the last three years Apple disclosed unit sales, the company sold well over one-third of its iPhones during the last quarter of each year. And while the stakes are just as high this year, the pandemic has strongly impacted the economy. COVID-19 has left many unemployed, reduced retail foot traffic, and forced Americans to simply stay home, leaving retailers scrambling to prepare for a largely digital December.
2020 has been a tumultuous year. A global pandemic claimed the lives of nearly 1.5 million people, a worldwide movement emerged for racial justice, and American political division created widespread concern. With COVID-19 forcing unprecedented social distancing, the mobile app economy has also experienced radical shifts. App consumption has exploded, Gen Z is gaming more than ever, and mobile news consumption dwarfed that of 2019. And Apple’s announcements of impending data policy rule changes have upended an ecosystem.
On October 13, 2020, in a highly anticipated launch event, Apple introduced its newest iPhone models, the iPhone 12 series. For the first time ever, Apple launched four devices that differ by size, price and features, including the first ever iPhone 12 mini at 5.4 inches. The devices launched in two waves: the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro on October 23, and the iPhone 12 mini and 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max on November 13. This report evaluates the success of Apple’s iPhone 12 series launch this year.
Earlier this month, more than one billion people in India as well as expatriates across the world celebrated the festival of Diwali. Best known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali is marked by family gatherings, fireworks and prayer, and is one of the most widely celebrated festivals in India. Over the years, the weeks leading up to Diwali have become the most important holiday shopping season in the country with people splurging on gadgets, clothes, appliances, jewelry, and more.