What just happened? It looks as if Apple is prepared for iPhone 15 sales to be underwhelming. With the launch of its latest handsets just over one month away, Cupertino has admitted that the US smartphone market is in a slump.

Apple's hardware divisions were down during the last quarter. The $39.67 billion revenue brought in from iPhone sales was below Wall Street estimates and represented a 2% fall compared to the same quarter a year ago. Mac and iPad revenue, meanwhile, were also down, by 7% and 20%, respectively.

Following the report, Apple admitted that "the smartphone market has been in a decline for the last couple of quarters in the United States."

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman notes that sales of Apple products in the US paled in comparison with China, which CEO Tim Cook said was a highlight during the last quarter. Apple said that American shoppers are not spending as much on iDevices as they used to and the whole smartphone industry is experiencing a slowdown, which isn't great when a new handset is on the horizon.

Apple's admission isn't an exaggeration. Market research analysts Canalys and Counterpoint both reported smartphone shipment declines in the second quarter – the former said 11%, while the latter was a slightly better 8% - with Samsung sitting in number one place ahead of Apple.

We're around six weeks away from the launch of the iPhone 15 series – it's expected to go on sale on September 22 following a reveal about ten days earlier. Rumors say that the biggest upgrade will be thinner bezels. Apple is also expected to change the stainless-steel edges in the Pro models with titanium, a lighter, more premium material, while the Lightning port is being swapped out for USB-C, mostly because of the upcoming EU rules.

We're used to seeing iterative updates in phones - take the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5, for example. The fact that the standout feature in the iPhone 15 could be 0.7mm-smaller bezels doesn't sound like something that will encourage lines of people waiting outside stores on launch day.

Gurman does note that the iPhone 15 will have a few factors in its favor. The series is launching during the busy holiday period and it shouldn't suffer the same pandemic-related stoppages at the Foxconn factory that impacted supply of the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max - though there have been reports of potential severe shortages at launch. Moreover, the new phones are said to be no more expensive than their predecessors in the US. But with many people wary of making pricey luxury purchases right now, it remains to be seen how much a price freeze will help sales.