It does not take much effort to realize that we humans have a shortage of numbers. No, not numbers per se, but numbers that are representative of facts. Or, put another way, factual numbers; not just numbers for the sake of numbers.
Fact: Apple says they sold x-number of iPhones, iPads, and Macs last quarter, and we have no reason not to believe those numbers because the profits keep adding up, the stock keeps going up, and customers keep lining up to buy they latest and greatest from the Cupertino Gadget Factory.
Fact: Various and sundry research entities claim to know how many of what model iPhone gets sold each quarter. That fact is a claim; not the actual numbers because only Apple knows, yet headline after headline says the iPhone costs this much to make, or iPhone 7 outsells iPhone 8, or, Clinton lost the 2016 election because of 120,000 votes spread across three states.
Here’s another one from another estimator guesstimator. Canalys says:
Apple’s iPhone 7 was the world’s best-shipping smartphone in Q3 2017, with 13.0 million units shipped. The iPhone 6s was a distant second, after an uptick that resulted in 7.9 million shipments. Samsung’s Galaxy J2 Prime was third, with 7.8 million shipped, while Oppo took fourth and fifth place, with its A57 and R11 shipping 7.8 million and 7.2 million units respectively. Apple’s iPhone 8, which launched in mid-September, did not make the top five. Worldwide smartphone shipments reached 375.9 million, up 5.9% year on year.
Those numbers are stated as facts. They are not. Only Apple divulges actual sales numbers of iPhones. Samsung does not. All those other numbers are research guesstimates. Someone made a few calls, built a spreadsheet or two, and cobbled the whole mess into a factoid sans facts.
Apple shipped 46.7 million smartphones in Q3 2017. The new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus accounted for 11.8 million of these. This falls well short of its predecessor, the iPhone 7 line, which topped 14 million in its first quarter. But while Apple shipped 5.4 million units of the iPhone 8, it shipped 6.3 million of the larger iPhone 8 Plus. This makes the iPhone 8 Plus the first iPhone Plus model to out-ship its smaller sibling in a single quarter.
Again, not facts in evidence. Guesses. From my perspective as a certified Apple watcher and industry gadget buyer, numbers– factual numbers– are becoming an endangered species; replaced by headlines and numbers which are displayed as fact but which are not.
Even Apple has become more coy about real numbers. Revenue, profits, gross margin, expenses, are the basics, and mostly based upon iPhone, iPad, Mac, and various and sundry services, accessories, et al. Remember when Apple used to say they sold 10-million new iPhones on the introductory weekend? They don’t do that anymore. We don’t even know how many Watch or Apple TV units have been sold to date. And, forget about a list of models and how many each one sold.
I can understand why Apple is somewhat reticent about divulging such numbers. Media hounds tend to over-inflate the importance of anything when compared to iPhone. Watch is a failure because Apple didn’t sell as many as iPhones sold. That’s a stupid comparison but nobody said market and industry writers were smart.
My fear is that we’ve entered an era in humankind where numbers no longer matter, where verifiable facts are an endangered species, and where numbers that clearly are estimates, guesstimates, and purely fictional are treated as if they are factual.