Opinion: Apple Watch sales coverage plunges 90% in accuracy

With the iPhone and iPad, Apple issued press releases touting how many units the company sold on launch weekends, sometimes followed up with sales milestones, listed the numbers in quarterly earnings reports, and gave frequent updates during keynotes. Apple used to do the same with iPod, now, no longer. Once in a while, the company has given Apple TV numbers. Apple Watch, however, won't be broken out at all, and for the foreseeable future.

Apple is entering the watch (wearables) market at a different relative point in time to the company's entry into smartphones or tablets. Both of those were long-established product categories where incumbents like Palm, BlackBerry, and Microsoft had been involved for upwards of a decade. No one has been making wearables for that long, and no company is anywhere nearly as established.

In other words, where releasing numbers helped shape Apple's message in mobile, there's no similar advantage in wearables. There's not a decade of existing data to measure success against, and anything Apple releases would be of much greater value to competitors also trying to become established in the same market. (If Apple had it to do it again, given what happened with Google and Samsung, maybe the company wouldn't have released so much information about the iPhone or iPad either? Most of Apple's competitors, after all, provide little to nothing by way of hard numbers.)

So, absent any real data, noise wins out. In this case, noise from Slice, via Marketwatch:

Apple has been selling fewer than 20,000 watches a day in the U.S. since the initial surge in April, and on some days fewer than 10,000, according to data from Palo Alto, Calif.-based Slice Intelligence.That is a sharp decline from the week of the April 10 launch, when Apple sold about 1.5 million watches, or an average of about 200,000 a day, Slice estimates.

How does Slice get this data?

Slice bases its research on electronic receipts sent to millions of email addresses following purchases.

There's no other context provided, so there's no way of knowing how much of the data sampled was U.S. vs. global, for example. Also, the Apple Watch recently went on sale at retail, so how are sales that don't include email accounted for? And what kind of representative sample are "people who let us read their email receipts"? Do they skew towards early adoption? Late adoption? Low end? High end? How does this compare with the sales numbers and curves of other new products and categories, from Apple and the rest of the wearables industry? Faster? Slower? The same? None of that—crucially important—information is presented.

I asked around about the numbers presented, and I couldn't find anyone who considered the numbers accurate, nor the methodology agreeable. Absent Apple disclosure, opinions can and will always vary, but that's another important bit of context that needs to be provided.

*Update: I spoke to Slice and they very graciously walked me through their methods. They're measuring U.S. online shoppers, the data is harvested through a few apps, and it does skew towards the more affluent. I also had a chance to ask some question and get some context, which is what—as a reader—I didn't get from Marketwatch. And I really, really should have. *

I'm as curious as anyone to know how many Apple Watches are being sold. I'm curious because it had an April rather than holiday launch, had massive supply constraints, had a limited international rollout that's only beginning to expand, and required potential buyers to already own an iPhone 5 or higher. I'm also curious as to how it's doing compared to other wearables.

But a trite "Apple Watch is doomed!" headline and narrative (complete, alas, with clichéd Steve Jobs quip), absent reliable data and or anything approaching relevant insight, is something I can do without.

It's early days yet on the Apple Watch, but investors may have reason to be cautious.

Sure do, especially about what they choose to read.

Note: The title of this article is a play on the sensationalized title of the article it refers back to. No actual sales coverage was harmed in its formulation.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Of course without numbers from Apple everyone is left to speculate and guesstimate. When Slice's numbers were positive at the launch, tech and news sites were quick to publish and Apple fans rejoiced. Now when Slice's numbers are not so positive, Slice's numbers are wrong or based on faulty data or whatever. If Apple sells them in great quantities they will, without a doubt, share those numbers with the world just as they always do. I don't buy the different era, different time angle.
  • You're remembering wrong, everyone and their mother rolled their eyes at the initial report from slice (US only? Data from people who elect to have their inbox scanned by a marketing research company? Etc.)
  • Yep.
  • Do you see any eye rolling in these 2 iMore pieces that used Slice numbers? http://www.imore.com/new-reported-estimates-376000-us-apple-watch-delive...
  • A+ work! Sent from the iMore App
  • Rene apparently does not read his own articles. iMore has unfortunately turned from a news site to a propaganda site. They quote a news source when its in Apple's favor and then discredit the same source when it is not. Shame on you iMore!
  • mattmatt299 apparently does not read his own comments. He has unfortunately turned from a decent person to a hateful polluter. He quotes a news source when its in his favor and then discredit the same source when it is not. Shame on you mattmatt299!
  • This response made no sense. You and your captain butt-hurt just got schooled by people posting previous imore articles praising Slice numbers. Acting like a monkey isn't helping your case, LeFanboy
  • Praising? How? I'm guessing you didn't even look up those articles... Or maybe "not criticizing" is the new "praising"?! And what's with the language?
  • Because you're making useless posts instead of owning up to your incorrect post. Why don't you just admit you were wrong and stand corrected? you said everyone was "rolling" their eyes when previous Slice articles came out...not only none of you fans were rolling your eyes at those numbers, but imore took those numbers and ran with them turning them into headlines
  • Read the quoted links. Although both articles referenced the stats, neither one elaborated on their accuracy, but instead polled readers for their feedback about the Apple watch:
    "check out our guides to getting started with the Apple Watch",
    "Tim Cook said while chatting to CNBC that pre-orders numbers were "great", failing to elaborate by revealing figures." I was not able to confirm whether this forum allows for name calling but name calling really discredit anything you have to say here.
  • I did read the links. they didn't just reference the stats, the HEADLINE was based on the stats and no those articles weren't about "this is one random stat, do you think it's correct?", those articles were made just based on those stats to provide readers with an estimate of shipments/sold whatever. None of the authors of those articles said "these estimates look inaccurate and unreliable" why? because it was in favor of apple. Now that the same research company publishes numbers against apple, suddenly all of the fanboys have turned into overnight statisticians disputing the methodology of the research. Hypocrisy at it's finest and most sadly the iDenial.
  • @XperimentT, maybe you should start your own blog, you seem to have things you need to say... Or maybe join a support group? Anyways, we get it! You hate Apple and sites that cover Apple.
  • You're wrong yet again. I don't hate apple, I have a mac book pro which I'm posting this from right now. It's Okay, I don't expect a fanboy to man up and own his mistakes. I'm just glad the hypocrisy was exposed.
  • So you torture yourself with a Mac... You name call and bully me... And you are glad a hypocrisy was exposed... Interesting. Tell me more of this "hypocrisy" you uncovered...
  • How am i torturing myself with a Mac? I love my Mac. you seem a bit confused. I guess as a Fanboy it's hard for you to imagine that people can own different electronics from competing companies. I'm not here to hate on Apple. I'm here to comment on the hypocrisy of questioning Slice numbers when they're against what fanboys like to hear but running headlines with it when its pro-Apple
  • And this "hypocrisy" is important to you... Interesting. Tell me more of these " fanboys"...
  • Look in the mirror ;-]. It looks like you've hit rock bottom on this conversation..take a break, regroup and maybe we'll cross paths on another article =]
  • So you argue with people who have diverging opinions to your own and find satisfaction in the process... Fascinating. Tell me more about why you are here...
  • I'm still waiting for you to show me the proof of "You're remembering wrong, everyone and their mother rolled their eyes at the initial report from slice".
    But it seems like in the process of our debate you had a nervous break down and went a little koo-koo and turned into a couch psychologist. Cough statisticians, couch psychologists, I gotta give it to you, you fanboys are jack of all trades!
  • *sigh*
    -The Verge (http://www.theverge.com/2015/4/16/8398579/apple-watch-sales-estimates)
    "[...] Slice's information, however, comes from a rather biased source. [...]"
    -Daring Fireball (http://daringfireball.net/linked/2015/04/13/slice-intelligence-apple-wat...)
    "[...] I would take these numbers with an enormous grain of salt, given the methodology: Slice Intelligence is an opt-in service that reads your email and gleans receipts from your inbox. [..]"
    -Fortune (http://fortune.com/2015/04/13/how-many-apple-watches-were-sold-worldwide...)
    "[...] Given Slice’s tilt toward heavy shoppers, their estimate could be high. [...]"
  • Thank you, these non-iMore sources you cited prove my point even more. So while those websites questioned the estimates, the iMore propaganda machine took those numbers and made headline articles with them because the numbers favored Apple and unlike the cited articles, none of the iMore authors advised readers to read the numbers with a grain of salt. As soon as the same research company put out numbers that weren't in favor of Apple, iMore called the numbers inaccurate and questioned the methodology. Conclusion stands: Hypocrisy at iMore. Tell me how you feeling now....
  • Your conclusion that iMore has a bias towards Apple!? No $#!? Sherlock! Hardly hypocrisy if you ask me... But to each their own. And to tell you the truth, right now I feel like losing my time... sadly.
  • There is a difference between good old bias and blatant hypocrisy and lack of journalistic integrity. As you said to each their own. Later.
  • XperimnenT, you are a sad, sad troll. A MacBook Pro owning troll to be sure, but a troll.
  • While I agree with you, XperimnenT, I could overlook all of this if it weren't for Rene's smug, self righteous tone. Just another distasteful article from iMore.
  • Captain Butt-hurt at it again
  • I was ready to throw my opinion all over this, but this was well said and I agree with all of it. No fun...
  • Haha. Thanks?
  • Lol yes, great article.
  • No idea what the number is at all, but with production certainly being much more efficient now, the order times for all models remain in the 5-7 working days range (where they have been for approx. 2 weeks now), and the pick-up reservations from our local Apple Store are normally depleted around noon every day. While impossible to deduct any numbers from that, it is pretty clear that the reported decline and availability do not align at all. This would be the first product in history that has a declining output from assembly, before there is even enough stuff in the channel. Bunk that...
  • "but with production certainly being much more efficient now"..."and the pick-up reservations from our local Apple Store are normally depleted around noon every day. While impossible to deduct any numbers from that" Wow. Your local Apple store, aint that enlightening. Countering a high-schooler survey with your superior educated guess. Way to go. What's the point of this article anyway? Did the BS study this joke of a research company released have to be dignified with a response? is this the purpose of this site to just play the white knight (while driving traffic in times of slow news, obviously...you gotta eat and earn that invitation to the next Keynote), every time some pseudo analyst in search of sensationalism painfully pens a 'study'? Could you guys please write an equally interesting response everytime a JPM or BAML intern says Apple sales are gonna drop the following year? Oh wait. I fell for it, now, didnt I?
  • The very idea that "Sales plunge 90%" is an "Opinion" is absurd. Sent from the iMore App
  • What do you expect! It was a horrible launch of a product. Maybe the demand was there but not the availability and certainly not available for the impulse buyer so I'm sure as time went on people over came the knee jerk impulse to buy. Not even sure if availability is still where it needs to be for these people.
  • Horrible? A new premium-priced product being sold out for over two months is something most companies would kill for. Outselling the entire competition's last 12 months over the first weekend was horrible, too. Nobody builds out assembly lines to handle pent-up demand, it makes no economical sense. And there wasn't any historical data to base estimates on. According to most of the Fandroid tools here, no sales were to be expected at all... So, it's "horrible" if they do, and "horrible" If they don't. Great.
  • Horrible in the sense that stock was not readily available. So I'm sure they lost a lot of sales to people that did not want to wait and then eventually gave up or no longer wanted one after thinking twice about it. Horrible in the fact that you could only buy online through Apple. Horrible in the fact that the wait time for delivery was months on out. A classic failure of giving the customer what they want when they want it. Don't confuse sold out with intentional short supply. Sent from the iMore App
  • I definitely believe that the short supply was intentional: the optics of selling out are better than those of selling twice as much out of a supply of three times as much. What frustrates me is that the sexy headlines basing success off percent exhausted supply are dictating product flow as opposed to consumers with the money and the demand. Apple has to have the resources to be able to make a very educated guess as to what their supply would need to be to meet demand, and they consistently put out way less in order to generate the impressive sales stories. There's definitely still a bitter taste in my mouth from the 6+ launch. I held on to a broken phone for months waiting for the new model to come out and was not too enthused about the additional 12 week wait after launch. Finally gave up and got the 6. There are a lot of people who probably said "forget it" once they realized Apple was playing the same game with the watch. But it's a little easier to get through the day with no watch as opposed to a broken phone, so I think you're spot on about people having second thoughts.
  • Yeah, I was ready to buy 2 at launch, one for me and one for the wife, we went to the store, tried it on, we're psyched, then decided to wait, now we'll wait for v2 or even V3. Sent from the iMore App
  • The numbers of iPhone users that Slice's data is based on is too small to be extrapolated from, that was the case at the launch of the watch, and it's just as true now.
  • Hi Rene,
    Question about this statement: "I asked around about the numbers presented, and I couldn't find anyone who considered the numbers at all accurate, nor the methodology at all sound." Did you ask Slice?
  • Someone sounds a little butt hurt. Sent from the iMore App
  • I own a restaurant. I see thousands of different people each month. I have yet to see anybody with an apple watch. Just an observation. Sent from the iMore App
  • I have one. Does this change your view to "everyone has one?"
  • I'm the food & beverage assistant director at a yacht club and ive seen only 3 members with them!
  • alberto, I think you are Slice material
  • Rikers Island?
  • How many Rolex's did you see in the same time period?
  • That's a lot for a yacht club, I'd expect all those folks to only wear $5000+ Swiss time pieces.
  • Your metric is off because I suspect you are comparing Apple watch sightings to iPhone sightings. Have you ever seen Android Wear or Pebble in the wild? I haven't but that doesn't mean much because it's a new product category for all wearables including Apple Watch. Even if there were 10 million Apple Watches our there you would rarely see any. We'll have to wait a year or so until we are able to see smartwatches of all brands around town to compare.
  • There are about 15 Samsung and android wears at my work of about 500 people, and only 1 apple watch. Sent from the iMore App
  • How many of those Android Wear users are using iPhones by the way?
    Point is, Android users have no choice but to buy those terrible things, and iPhone users have only had a couple months to even go see the Apple Watch in person.
  • At my work it is just the opposite. I know of 5 Apple watch people and only one off brand. We have about 150 people here.
  • I was coming to say the same thing. I've never seen one on someone. I only know of two people that bought one, and they both returned theirs within 2 weeks. Sent from the iMore App
  • Lol me too Sent from the iMore App
  • When  failed was when they didnt have availability in stores, if this was Angela's idea then that was the worst move by  to let her do this, if they had it in stores this would've never happened!!
  • Completely agree. I work at apple and thought this "get in line, Online" idea was the dumbest crap I have ever seen. People want to go the store and BUY the dam thing, not order it and wait 6 weeks to get it.
    Same crap with the new Macbook. Not a single one in the store for the first 5 weeks it was available "online" ...
    Angela needs to wake up. People come to apple stores to buy products, not try them on and wait. on a side note, we are seeing a LOT of returns. People have decided it's just not worth $400-$1100 and brought them back. I see at least 1 to 4 returns per day on my shifts alone.
    I also only see around 5-10 watch sales a day (at my store)
  • My watch broke after 3 weeks use. Sill not fixed. Replaced. Apple care sucks on this product. How long does it normally take to get them replaced.... At your store? Sent from the iMore App
  • I can add a bit of data to the mix. We love apple products, and I would REALLY love an apple watch, but the entry price is prohibitive. At 250€ we would have 2 in the family, 300€ either my wife or I would have one, but 400€ for the base model (here in Germany) was not justifiable for us.
  • Side note 2: the new Macbook isn't selling AT ALL. I have seen 3 go out the door since launch. That's it.
  • You do work as much at an Apple Store as I am the fucking pope. Enough now.
  • Indeed he works at an Apple store and has a Samsung phone for an avatar... Way to go champ!
  • lol, because I like both apple and android, I cant possibly work for apple.
    I carry both phones and I also have a Window Phone. OMG what a crime!!
    and yes, I do work at apple. so STFU ass clown.
    You iFans are hilarious. Let me in on a secret. There are at least 10 employees at my store that don't own an iPhone or Mac AT ALL. they own android and windows computers.
  • I know, I have a friend who works for Apple (inside a BestBuy store-within-a-store) and uses and LG phone himself (granted he doesn't sell iPhones, only Macs and iPads + accessories). But your attitude is the tell BTW... I was simply stating the irony of the situation. Which you chose to treat with the same subtlety as if I had made sour comments about your mother or your genital apparatus. I mean, iFans... Seriously?
  • I don't get how a publicly trade company doesn't share their sales figures, but I'm sure Apple isn't the only one. sent from my Sony Ericsson T616
  • Most public corps don't. In fact, Apple does more than most if not all in general. Public companies aren't required to publish sales data to the mass public.
  • I'm sure the numbers are low. I think I have seen a total of 2 people wearing one since they were released.
  • Me too but that's a terrible metric. I've seen only one new Galaxy S6 in public since its release, but a total of 4 Apple Watches. Should that indicate The Apple Watch sells 4 times as many as the newest Samsung flagship phone? Doubtful.
  • Thank you. I wish more people realized that their anecdotal evidence means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme. I haven't seen anyone (other than myself) wearing an Apple Watch. Does that mean they don't exist? No, I live in a small town of 15k permanent residents. I bet your average New Yorker sees a dozen a day. People love to trot out their personal experience but it's all anecdotal and means nothing.
  • I don't know how the sales are doing. I don't really care honestly.
  • I think sales were always going to slow down after the initial launch. I think where sales will pick up again is just before Christmas. I can see the watch being a much requested Christmas present this year. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • This.
    Early adopters have piled in and demand for pre-orders now fulfilled. It's summer and people are more likely to be paying for holidays than gadgets. From using the Watch a while (which I like a lot), it's not a device you can 'sell' to casual observers - it's a sum of the parts item where I get value from lots of small value-adds/conveniences, but until it's used for a few weeks (from my experience), it's hard to appreciate or hand to someone and have them instantly go 'wow, I need this'.
    I'd bet the majority of people who own one for more than a month, now find it a solid part of their daily life. Apple's challenge has always been how they persuade people to buy a device that needs time to appreciate and the jury seems to be out on how they are managing to achieve that task.
    I think it will be a slow burner for the summer/autumn, but the Sport model especially, is priced just about within reach of many for a main gift for Christmas and same a month or 2 later, Chinese NY for Asia.
    If things stall during that period, even a version 2 may struggle to take-off, but everyone probably needs to wait until then before judging it either a success or failure.
  • Urgh - that was too long, apologies.
  • Can't you put a U.S. poll up as to who allows slice to read their email, not scientific but may give an indication to how many people actually use this (bizarre imo) service Sent from the iMore App
  • Agree - if it's a service largely used by the more technically focused/aware, then by nature, they could have been predominantly tracking swathes of early adopters. Now that group have their watches, they may not be tracking 'normal' consumer purchases at all and so of course numbers have 'crashed'.
    If they do poll a broad representation of the population however, then the results could be much more significant. Context is vital.
  • Slice's data is pure lies The Apple Watch could only be ordered from Apple direct, as such Apple sent receipt emails to customers direct. Slice could not see this unless somehow they are in the email path and were snooping on peoples emails I suspect Slice are lying on behalf of a 'Client' or in order to generate click revenue for someone
  • Sorry this is a bit close for trolling. But i am really worried about this trend to explain apple .
    If you have to explain things you dropped the ball, steve would have said. Rene maybe there is easy logic test, if you have need to explain to public they have failed. If they fail in every message and action they really are the new microsoft. This number game is always bit tricky. I do not know how many times rene has made a point about sold products vs products delivered to resellers. Interestingly this myth that apple always has sold numbers is strong. But outside us they do not have sold numbers, they have the same delivered to reseller numbers as everybody else. The devil is in the details when they articulate sold numbers. And they have said in analysts calls that they do not know the numbers of sold items worldwide. Case and point is too many iPad in inventory in last two quarters. Outside apple focused sites watch has not generated as much traffic as expected. It does not differ from any other product from any other tech company. Apple blogs have been selling the vision instead of the actual product that is available. Apple blogs are becoming more and more part of the apple marketing message. There is no critical thinking. And because all writers tend to meet quite often. While meeting they are analyzing these things to a point were they are trying to create story instead of findings through facts. And most of these writers are freelancers without full email, calendars or any other things that regular employed people do. So their usage is totally different. And they alleys undervalues the usage normal users have. And the analysts are based on wishes and principles (apple) and fears (others) not the hard facts. And these thesis are only tested with likeminded people without critical opposites. So most reviews and analysts are written to other bloggers. They are created from same base points and newer trying to test own values. And newer ever are apples figures fact checked or tried to understand from other point of view. Case and point apples long tradition of growth that is faster than pc average. Well at the same time apple usage share has not changed very much and more lenovo has come from zero to bigger than apple. There is widening gap between more and average user. And for two years rene has almost weekly asked someone in podcast can apple bring this or that like watch to market. Always answer is no. And they brought exactly that product. If you ask any woman outside tech industry it looks like on computer in wrist. Battery lasts as completion, It square. So only thing that is different is that it is made by apple. While it might be good it is troubling that no one trying to look a bit from distance. Right now imore and rest has become part of marketing machine. They are speaking for super consumerism where everyone buys things without critical thinking. Because buying things makes us better people.
  • Love to see at least one voice of reason online. Thanks Rene.
  • As has been pointed out, iMore was fine to use Slice numbers uncritically, when the numbers looked postive: http://www.imore.com/new-reported-estimates-376000-us-apple-watch-delive...
  • Excellent poster. Would read again. A++++++++ Sent from the iMore App
  • And your point being?!?
  • As you proved above, you wouldn't get the point even if you were sitting on it! Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • nice catch. I'd say this is a perfect example of the type of ethics in play here at imore.
  • I would urge the readers and Rene to reach out to Slice Intelligence or even read their methodology blog before trying to discredit them. They are the only ones providing Apple sales stats so far. And yes, you can extrapolate sales statistics from a sample with %/% confidence (which Slice should have stated).
  • I know this is not the big picture but I just asked three of my friends that work at different Apple locations and they all said the same thing. The Apple watch has strong sales with little or no return. I will wait too see what Apple says about it this month during the call report. Everyone I have asked that has one likes it and has no regret getting one. Of course watch OS 2.0 will be nice to have soon.
  • The Watch is a waste of money and you don't really need it, your iPhone does it all, that is why the numbers are down people are finally waking up or not?
  • There is always tons of stuff we dont need and things that are a waste of money. We all determine what we want vs need. I like the watch and have found many great uses for it. Did I need it no but I like having it to do a lot of quick things without having to always pull out my phone or have it on me all the time.
  • Simply incorrect. It should be obvious to just about anyone that the iPhone does not do everything that the Apple Watch does. Give me a break.
  • Would the moderators please delete the many posts above which contain gratuitous profanity -- thank you. BTW (to the profane) -- I am not following responses to this post.
  • Yet more prof iMore is not a news site, just a fanboy site.
  • What's your take after talking with Slice ?
  • I've about 30 at Disney World Sent from the iMore App
  • Without hard sales numbers from Apple we're left with anecdotes and speculation. In my city I see many people using an iPhone however I've only seen one person wearing an Watch and that was about a month ago. My brothers and a couple of friends of mine who are the biggest Apple fans I know yet none of them have gotten the Apple Watch either. One syncs a Pebble with his iPhone. Conclusion: the Apple Watch is a niche product so far.