Apple Reportedly Advised Technicians to Push iPhone Upgrades to Customers With Out-of-Warranty Devices
Last month, Apple lowered its revenue guidance for the first quarter of its 2019 fiscal year by up to $9 billion due to fewer iPhone upgrades than it anticipated, primarily due to economic weakness in the Greater China region.
A few months prior to the announcement, Apple began heavily promoting iPhone XR and iPhone XS trade-ins with a limited time promotion, prominent banner on its website, emails to older iPhone users, store signage, App Store editorials, and other uncharacteristically aggressive tactics aimed at boosting sales.
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman previously reported that Apple reassigned some of its marketing staff to focus on bolstering sales of its latest iPhone lineup in late October, around the time the iPhone XR launched. The report cited an unnamed source who described the efforts as a "fire drill."
In a report this week about Deirdre O'Brien succeeding Angela Ahrendts as Apple's retail chief, Gurman elaborated a bit more on Apple's tactics to promote its latest iPhones, claiming that the company advised its technicians to "push iPhone upgrades to consumers with out-of-warranty devices."
Senior retail staff were also tasked with making sure other employees were suggesting upgrades, according to Gurman:
In December, as Apple executives worried about demand, the company asked retail employees to promote the new iPhones using methods not seen before. Technicians were told to push iPhone upgrades to consumers with out-of-warranty devices. Senior sales staff had to make sure other retail workers were suggesting upgrades, and easels offering generous trade-in deals for the iPhone XR were erected in stores. Apple's online homepage was also replaced with reduced iPhone pricing that required a trade-in of older models.
We presume this refers to Genius Bar technicians at Apple Stores, but there is also a network of Apple Authorized Service Providers, some of which double as authorized resellers that offer the latest Apple products for sale.
It's unclear if the tactics had any influence on Ahrendts stepping down from her position. Unlike her short-lived predecessor John Browett, who reportedly pushed Apple retail employees to aggressively upsell products, Ahrendts focused on the experience with free Today at Apple creativity sessions and more.
Last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook admitted that "customers are holding on to their older iPhones a bit longer than in the past." In a letter to shareholders, Cook said Apple is undertaking and accelerating initiatives to improve its results, such as making it simple to trade in a phone at its stores.
Apple's reported efforts to push iPhone upgrades creates an interesting juxtaposition. On one hand, the company's environmental chief Lisa Jackson recently said customers using its devices longer "is the best thing for the planet," and on the other hand it is more aggressively encouraging customers to buy a new iPhone.
Whether the tactics are effective will be harder to gauge going forward, as Apple no longer discloses unit sales in its quarterly earnings report. Apple forecasted revenue between $55 billion and $59 billion in the current quarter, which would be down from $61.1 billion in the year-ago quarter.