Last Friday, Apple began accepting preorders for its first completely new product in five years – the Apple Watch. As expected, eager fans quickly snapped up the available inventory, and soon pushed the shipping dates for backordered models – including the very expensive gold Edition models – well into June. Early adopters who waited too long to place their orders now face two-month long waits before getting their hands on the gadget, which has received mostly excellent reviews prior to its release. But what exactly do these Apple Watch shipping dates tell us about how well the device is selling so far? As it turns out, not all that much.
Brisk sales for new Apple products are nothing unusual, and the Apple Watch is certainly following the pattern set by the iPhone and iPad. It only took a few short hours for the entire available stock to be snapped up by customers, pushing ship times back into May, and eventually as far out as June. Those long wait times for Apple gadgets are not unprecedented, but I’m not sure anyone was expecting them for the Watch’s initial release.
That tells us that Apple has another solid hit on their hands with the new device, but it isn’t an indication of just how many units the were able to move in such a short period of time. It seems very clear that the Watch was supply constrained from the start, although it is hard to tell whether Apple deliberately kept production low in order to spur consumer interest, or if they simply underestimated demand and didn’t build enough of the smartwatches to go around.
Apple is notoriously tightlipped about the number of units they have on hand for a new product launch, and they seldom give definitive numbers on the gadgets they ship either. That makes it incredibly tough to estimate how many Watches they have sold over the past few days, and we aren’t likely to get any estimates until closer to the official launch day on April 24. Until then, there will be a lot of speculation on just how well the Apple Watch is doing with consumers, and how that stacks up with Apple’s own internal expectations.
It is highly likely however that the new device has already become the best selling smartwatch on the market, although that really isn’t saying all that much. We already knew that sales of the Pebble have topped one million, and that all Android Wear devices have combined for about 720,000 units thus far. Those numbers aren’t particularly impressive, nor do they bode well for the market for wearable devices at the moment. But considering the historic demand for Apple products, it seems possible that there were more than a million Apple Watches available for preorder, and that those units sold out very quickly.
It will be interesting to see how long it takes Apple to catch up with the brisk sales. Some iPhone models have remained supply constrained for months in the past, and it is possible that the Apple Watch could be as well. But if the initial demand trickles off, and ship times drop dramatically, we’ll get a better sense of just how many people truly are clamoring for a smartwatch on their wrist. Up until now, that number seemed fairly small, but Apple has a way of opening new markets that other companies can’t seem to duplicate. They may have just demonstrated that ability once again with the Apple Watch.
For those who managed to get their preorders in early enough to receive them on April 24, I’m sure the next few weeks are going to feel like they are crawling by. But for those of us who have to wait until June – or even longer – it is going to feel like an eternity.
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