The big picture: The current trend of $1,000+ smartphones that don't offer significant advantages has many people holding onto their phones for longer, at least until things like 5G become commonplace. The Cupertino giant knows this and is playing it safe by setting its expectations for the iPhone 11 accordingly. The idea of selling just as many iPhones as last year may be fine, which is still a lot.
A new report from Bloomberg indicates that Apple is expecting demand for the upcoming iPhone 11 to be more or less the same as last year, or essentially a delay for the smartphone super cycle investors are dreaming of.
Suppliers are naturally gearing up for production, and have reportedly been instructed to make parts for around 75 million phones that would ship through the end of this year. This coincides with the same period last year, when Apple managed to sell anywhere between 70 and 80 million iPhones.
Since Apple no longer reveals unit sales and only gives general guidance on revenue expectations, we can't know for sure exactly how many iPhone XS, XR, and XS Max devices shipped in the second half of 2018. It's safe to assume however that Bloomberg's estimates are in the ballpark, and the picture they paint is that of stable demand, which might look a little disappointing to some.
Apple may not expect to sell more iPhones this year, but it also doesn't appear to be worried about selling fewer of them, despite the continuing U.S.-China trade war. Looking at numbers for the second quarter of 2019, the iPhone did see a bit of growth in China, but Apple had to adjust production levels back and forth in 2018 as in response to weaker than expected demand in the region.