Apple today announced first-weekend sales of 13 million new iPhones, easily setting a new record thanks to the availability of the new versions in China.
“Sales for iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus have been phenomenal, blowing past any previous first weekend sales results in Apple’s history,” Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, said in a statement. “Customers’ feedback is incredible and they are loving 3D Touch and Live Photos, and we can’t wait to bring iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus to customers in even more countries on October 9.”
The numbers were roughly in line with what some analysts had projected. For instance, Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, had forecasted a number between 12 million and 13 million for the first weekend.
While it officially sets a new record, something Apple is eager to tout every year, this latest number is a bit harder to compare to 2014 sales.
Last year, the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were not available in China on the first weekend.
Apple officially rang up 10 million in iPhone sales on the first weekend last year. The new iPhones went on sale in China on Oct. 17, 2014, and, as far as I can tell, Apple didn’t release first-weekend sales for China.
Back in December 2012, when the new iPhone 5 went on sale in China, Apple announced 2 million units were sold in the first weekend. Since then, China has become Apple’s biggest market, making it a good bet that last year the company probably sold more than 3 million of the larger iPhone 6 models during that first weekend.
So, put those together with the 10 million sold the first weekend of September 2014 and the new “record” this year is not quite as smashing.
Also worth noting: Apple always counts as “sold” a phone it delivers to partners like Best Buy or AT&T. What’s always hard to gauge from year to year is how many of those phones actually sell through to customers.
For example, Fiksu reported today that it had measured the volume of new device activations 3 days post-release. Despite the big sales in units, Fiksu said that adoption of the iPhone 6S 40 percent slower than the iPhone 6 a year ago by almost 40 percent.
In other words, Fiksu said iPhone 6S represents 1.1 percent of iPhones in service now, compared to 1.8 percent for the iPhone 6 after the first three days. Of course, the universe of iPhones in use is also larger, so the same number of phones sold this year as last year could lead to a lower percentage.
Or, it could mean there are a lot of iPhones sitting on store shelves waiting to be bought. In reality, it usually takes a couple of quarters for all of this to smooth out and give us an indicator or how big of a hit the new iPhones are.
Still, given that it’s a year when the iPhones had only incremental updates (yes, I know many reviewers were trying to convince us otherwise), that number is solid.
The question now is whether it will soften concern among analysts, who in some cases have projected that Apple might have its first drop in year-over-year iPhone sales during the first three months of 2016.