The lull between Christmas and New Year’s is the perfect time to pause and reflect on the buzz of activity that December brings. It’s a time of relaxation that can only be perfected by keeping up to date on shifts in the device market.

In order to achieve this, we examined our vast mobile data over Christmas this year, looking specifically at the volume of new devices that entered the market. As a reminder, this data only consists of devices that users activated for the first time and began using apps in.

In short, we discovered that Christmas shoppers were heavily focused on obtaining Apple products this year: iPads have become a mainstay of the holiday season and the iPhone XR’s momentum shows no sign of decreasing.

iPads Perform Well Over the Holiday

We determine lift in device activations by calculating percent change in new devices in the days surrounding Christmas compared with new devices in the average week for the same time period. In 2016 we found that iPads dominated the leaderboards for new device activations over the Christmas holiday, while in 2017 the Google Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, and the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X took the top five. In 2018, iPads returned to the top of the list as they nearly swept the top 5, proving that their stellar performance years ago was not just a flash in the pan.

As the newest iPhone (the XR) was released almost in late October prior to Black Friday, it seemed to be the most likely candidate for a market takeover. But, we found that the iPhone XR saw more new device activations than any other device over Black Friday weekend compared to the average of previous weekends. This narrative partially played out in our Christmas data as well, confirming the demand for iPhones at a lower price point.


Though an 88% increase in new devices is nothing to shake a stick at, the XR still failed to beat the newest iPad and iPad pros and the iPad Mini. The new sixth generation iPad clearly saw the greatest increase in activation volume at 219%, while the 11 inch iPad Pro came in at second with a 125% increase versus the prior weeks in December. iPads were heavily promoted this Christmas in the form of deals from Amazon, Walmart, and Target, where consumers saved $100 on the 32 gigabyte model and $80 on the 128 gigabyte model. Stores also offered deals on the 12.9 inch and 11 inch iPad Pro.

At the same time, Apple’s market strategy for the XR seems to be paying off: A study from Consumer Intelligence and Research Partners found that significantly more consumers switched from an Android device to an iPhone within 30 days of the XR’s launch than those who switched to the iPhone X from an Android device in its first month.

XR Nearly Caught Up To XS in Market Share Despite Its Late Release

Comparing the market share that the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X had absorbed by Christmas 2017 reveals that their predecessors were more successful overall in capturing the hearts and minds of consumers.

As of December 27, 2017, the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X occupied approximately 13% of the device market. The iPhone 7 was still the most popular iOS phone at the time, but the X was already showing signs of permanence. The X represented 5% of all iPhones, already managing to have edged out the 6 Plus and nearly taking out the 5S.

Now, compare this to the total share that the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR occupy coming out of Christmas 2018: 7.3%.


Some of the biggest market losers from 2017 to 2018 include the iPhone 6, which lost 5% of its market share, while the 6S lost 5%, the 5 lost 4%, and the 7 lost 3%. Most of these consumers were claimed by the X, which gained 8% of the market. Meanwhile, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus each respectively gained 7% and 6%.

XR Sees Biggest Christmas Adoption Yet

Despite slight market share misgivings, the iPhone XR managed to have great adoption this Christmas, witnessing the greatest lift in activations of any new Apple device in the past three years. The number of new XRs activated by consumers grew by 88% over Christmas, while XS activations grew by 49% and XS Max activations by 36%. It’s also important to remember that the XS and XS Max have been in the market since September, while the XR came out in late October.


The XR saw similarly great performance over Black Friday, when new devices increased by 54%. The XR’s growth can be attributed to a number of factors, one of which is the obvious much lower price point than its siblings and the market-dominant iPhone X. Despite this lower price, it’s still got the same size display as the XS and XS Max and includes facial recognition software (Face ID) just like its more expensive counterparts. However, it does lack the OLED screen in favor of a more affordable LCD display and is equipped with a lower quality camera. At the end of the day, it’s still an upgrade from the iPhone X at a better price.

Beware the App Purge

With new devices comes demand for new apps, frequently meaning that old ones get tossed by the wayside. Be sure to treat your users with personalized messages around the holidays and keep your app top of mind. Ultimately those subtle nudges will go a long way in increasing your app’s retention in the new year.


Localytics is the leading mobile engagement platform across more than 2 billion devices and 12,000 mobile and web apps. Localytics processes 3 billion data points daily. For this analysis, Localytics examined the percentage increase in the quantity of new devices from December 24th to Dec 26th to a baseline number of new devices over the same days in the prior 3 weeks (Dec. 3rd – Dec. 5th, Dec. 10th – Dec. 12th, Dec 17th – Dec 19th). A new device is defined as a device that is seen by Localytics for the first time by downloading one of the apps incorporating our SDK. For market share data, we examined the relative percentage of each model as of Dec 27th 2018. All data in this study is based on international device usage.