Apple typically sells tens of millions of iPhones each holiday season, regardless of whether the company offers holiday discounts.
But with its HomePod smart speaker officially delayed until next year, a limited supply of the iPhone X and no virtual reality headset, Apple faces intense pressure this shopping season, economist Max Wolff said on Friday.
"The super hot phone .... they were late to it, Samsung got there first," Wolff told CNBC's "Closing Bell" on Friday. "They're certainly not the first entry into the smart home space. They're about to also get to VR, but also not first. They need to hit the cover off the ball in two of those three things to continue to be the biggest company in the world by market cap."
Apple wasn't immediately available to comment on Wolff's remarks.
Apple's iPhone X may be popular, but it's behind competitors like Samsung in adding features like bigger and brighter screens. Now, as Amazon's Echo saturates the market, the HomePod is further behind, Wolff said. Apple's new iPhones feature augmented reality tools, but CEO Tim Cook has said he doesn't see as much potential in headsets like Facebook's Oculus or Microsoft's HoloLens.
That all means the iPhone X will be "hugely important" for Apple, especially if the iPhone 8 turns out to be a dud.
"They really need this to shine," Wolff said.