Apple has now unveiled the iPhone 12 lineup with confirmation that the first 5G devices from Apple are here. If you’ve been following the news, you most likely know that Apple is a bit late on releasing its fall iPhone models this year. The delay is due to production bottlenecks stemming from COVID-linked factory shutdowns.

Unlike past years that featured releases in the early part of the fall, 2020’s release date means that the first shipping wave for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro began to arrive to customers on October 23. Some customers placing orders are seeing shipping dates slip into the middle part of November as Apple struggles to keep up with early demand. For the iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Max, preorders will begin on November 6 with a sale date of November 13.

At WeSellCellular, we expected presale and early orders for the iPhone 12 to be impressive. As things are trending now, they will likely break records. According to some analysts, Apple iPhone sales forecasts see the company shipping between 63 million and 68 million iPhone 12 devices by the end of 2020.

Looking at the limited numbers we have so far for the iPhone 12, preorders for the first 24 hours surpassed 2019’s iPhone 11 first-day preorders. More than 2 million iPhone 12 devices were scooped up during Apple’s first 24 hours of preorders in October. That’s a significant increase from the 800,000 units ordered during the same presale period for the iPhone 11.

Will This Be a Super Cycle?

Will the iPhone 12 trigger a “supercycle” like many industry analysts are predicting? The last time we saw anything that matched the phenomenon that some industry insiders are predicting now was 2014’s fourth quarter, when the iPhone 6 line was unveiled with larger screens. In fact, the fall 2014 launch of the iPhone 6 actually marked the first time that Apple launched two new screen sizes at the same time. Customers rushed to scoop up the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays to the tune of 74.47 million phones in a single quarter to create a “supercycle” that has not been matched since. In fact, the year-over-year increase from 2013 to 2014 was 46 percent.

Looking ahead to the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021, the release of the first 5G phone has a good chance of rivaling that excitement to create a new “supercycle” due to the fact that the iPhone 12 is another watershed device. As we’ve discussed, the new iPhone 12 has already topped the iPhone 11’s first-day presale numbers by roughly 1.2 million devices. Another indicator that customers may be more willing than usual to upgrade in the months to come is that analysts estimate that 30 percent or more of current iPhone users own devices that are three or more years old. Typically, iPhone users upgrade every two years.

How Will Apple’s Black Friday Deals Impact the Secondhand Market?

Will Apple and other phone carriers contribute to a potential supercycle by going big on Black Friday iPhone holiday deals this year? Typically, Apple goes all out to entice buyers to upgrade to the latest model following a launch. Additionally, big-box retailers like Walmart usually throw their hats in the ring to offer enticing deals. In 2019, the big holiday iPhone sales on the table included the iPhone 11 for $125 after trade-in at Best Buy, the iPhone 11 Pro for $425 after trade-in at Best Buy, and the iPhone XR for free with a trade-in for new customers at AT&T.

It has yet to be seen if retailers will be willing to offer big deals this holiday season in light of weakened revenues stemming from a tough year for retail. However, more cost-conscious consumers impacted by COVID may force retailers’ hands and compel them to offer more incentives to upgrade. While Apple doesn’t offer discounts on phones, it does have very aggressive tactics for encouraging customers to trade their devices. This includes throwing a $100 credit into the mix back in 2018 that helped to substantially boost trade-in numbers. 

Our Speculation Over Apple’s iPhone Sales Forecast for the 2020 Holiday Season

While Apple makes it difficult to know exactly how many iPhone 11s were sold last holiday season, we do know that Apple beat revenue projections for the period spanning October through December 2019. The iPhone 11 went on to become the best selling phone of 2020.

During the first half of the year, Apple sold more than 37.7 million iPhone 11 devices. For perspective, the iPhone XR only sold 26.9 million units by the same time in 2019.

So far, 2020 has been a wildcard in terms of iPhone sales. In the second quarter of 2020, iPhone sales stood at $28.96 billion—a decline from the $31.05 billion seen at the same time in 2019. However, Apple’s third-quarter sales of $26.42 billion actually beat last year’s $25.9 billion. According to some analysts, Apple iPhone sales forecasts see the company shipping between 63 million and 68 million iPhone 12 devices by the end of 2020.

The Bottom Line on Apple iPhone Holiday Sales for 2020

Anyone in the market has reason to be uncertain about what the holiday season holds for the used iPhone market. Will people be steadily trading in devices for the new iPhone 12 in the fiscal year ahead through an economic downturn when the only significant difference about the new model is 5G capability? The answer seems to be yes, based on the presale numbers we’re seeing in October. We’re also likely to see people who have been waiting to upgrade to an iPhone with 5G capacity finally part with their phones. That means that a good supply of in-demand iPhones from the past two to three years may suddenly become available at the end of 2020.

The big takeaway for sellers is that a big spike in trade-ins means an inevitable price reduction across older iPhone models. Sellers have every reason to be cautious about making sure they’re turning inventory rapidly to avoid getting caught with too much inventory as the market sees steep and sustained drops.

If you’re planning your inventory for the months ahead, having a reliable wholesale supplier is extremely important because you’ll be in a position to keep up with the trends as they come. While the end-of-year trade-in cycle can usually be counted on to yield some good inventory, resellers are really going to have to be positioned to make moves quickly this time around to ensure they are managing risk as well as profit.

At WeSellCellular, we rely on our access to consistent supplies and our relationships with retailers and carriers to give our customers access to in-demand devices. If you’re a retailer, wholesaler, distributor, or refurbisher looking to navigate the 2020-2021 phone-buying season with ease, WeSellCellular is here to help you find the devices you need.


Additional sources referenced: