iPhone revenues and unit sales for Apple's last quarter dropped significantly compared to the previous quarter. Revenues from iPhone sales declined by 18 percent, while unit sales dropped 16 percent -- a sell-through decline of 2.4 million units over the previous quarter. During the recent quarterly earnings call, CEO Tim Cook and other Apple executives confirmed the main cause of the decline: rumors.
Apple believes the explosion of iPhone rumors during the latter half of the last quarter materially contributed to the decline in iPhone sales over the quarter. Coupled with pent-up demand for a new model of iPhone after Apple unexpectedly didn't refresh the line at WWDC, this amounted to a US$2.3 billion reduction in revenue from iPhone sales over the quarter.
This is the first time that I can recall Apple publicly admitting the impact rumors have had on its bottom line, and that impact appears to have been substantial. Even Gizmodo's early outing of the iPhone 4's design failed to make much (if any) dent in iPhone sales in the quarter preceding the iPhone 4's launch in 2010, but endless speculation about a supposed iPhone 5 launch apparently drove customers to hold off on iPhone purchases in anticipation of a new model.
The good news for Apple is that record-breaking sales of the iPhone 4S may have already offset its lost revenue from last quarter. With four million handsets sold in just the first three days after its launch, sales of the iPhone 4S are likely to drive Apple's holiday quarter iPhone sales beyond anything seen thus far.
Whether the situation will repeat in 2012 is anyone's guess. The rumor mill is unlikely to stop churning, but hopefully next year it won't cost Apple so much in lost sales in the process.