Tim Cook Says IDC got it Wrong, Apple Watch Sales are Strong

2 minute read
| News

IDC says Apple Watch sales are tanking, but Apple CEO Tim Cook says that’s not so. In fact, he says Apple Watch sales are going strong and the company is on track for a record quarter.

Apple CEO Tim Cook contradicts IDC saying Apple Watch sales are strong

Apple Watch sales might be tanking, or maybe not

Yesterday, IDC released a report saying Apple Watch sales are down more than 70% year-over-year. The research firm estimated Apple sold 3.9 million smartwatches during its third quarter last year, and this year that number dropped to 1.1 million.

Mr. Cook responded to the IDC report telling Reuters,

Sales growth is off the charts. In fact, during the first week of holiday shopping, our sell-through of Apple Watch was greater than any week in the product’s history. And as we expected, we’re on track for the best quarter ever for Apple Watch.

That doesn’t fit with IDC’s numbers, which isn’t too surprising considering Apple doesn’t share Apple Watch sales figures. Instead, Apple is pulling a page from Amazon’s book—the company never says how many Kindle ebook readers it sells—and keeping the sales numbers secret.

Amazon hasn’t ever offered concrete sales numbers for its Kindle ebook reader line and instead shows slick charts with climbing bars. The implication is that Kindle sales are higher each quarter without any numbers or real basis for comparison.

IDC’s Numbers Game

That leaves IDC and other analysis firms to cobble together their own systems for estimating Apple Watch sales. The numbers they come up with are compiled from a variety of sources such as shopper surveys and retailer data, painting a partial picture of Apple’s sales without an easy way to verify their conclusions.

While analysis firms don’t have an easy way to verify their conclusions, they also don’t have a way to verify Mr. Cook’s statement. In essence, we’re left having to accept what he said as fact, or assume he’s covering up weak quarterly sales.

If Apple Watch sales really are tanking we’ll eventually know when suppliers report multiple quarters where the company cuts parts orders, or if it’s quietly dropped from the product lineup.

Truth in Numbers

IDC is also looking at sales from the quarter before Apple Watch Series 2 was shipping, so it’s possible their numbers are right and Apple’s record breaking proclamation is true, too. Apple Watch buyers holding out for the Series 2 launch may have pushed sales numbers down ahead of the new models, then bumped them back up after the rollout.

Mr. Cook hinted that sales are just fine adding, “Our data shows that Apple Watch is doing great and looks to be one of the most popular holiday gifts this year.”

Still, that doesn’t give us anything more than the idea that sales are better than they were. Without a basis for comparison, there isn’t any way of knowing if Mr. Cook is talking about thousands of watches, or millions.

Apple made it clear before the original Apple Watch shipped nearly two years ago that the sales numbers wouldn’t be broken out. That hasn’t changed with the Apple Watch Series 2 launch this year, and it won’t likely change any time soon.

6 Comments Add a comment

  1. IMO, and that’s all it is, I think TCs statement is backed up by accounting smoke and mirrors.
    I’m much more likely to believe IDC as it matches the BBC article I posted here yesterday., Smart watches seem to be a fad that has peaked. Fitness wearables OTOH are doing well.

  2. skipaq

    I can positively back up Apple selling 2 of the series 2 watches. My wife loves hers. Mine is scheduled for delivery in a couple of weeks.

  3. jhorvatic

    I think Tim Cook doesn’t use smoke and mirrors but has the facts right in front of him. Certainly knows more than the IDC. Now they probably do use smoke and mirrors to make up this crap.

  4. MarcusNewton

    I still have, and use daily, my original Apple Watch from the day it was released. I dreaded having to have my iPhone on me or right next to me all day. Now with the Apple Watch I leave it on my desk or on my nightstand at home and I get all my information sent to my watch where ever I am (within bluetooth range).

    I was planning on upgrading to the series 2, but watchOS 3 solved many of my complaints I had with my original Apple Watch. I will probably wait for series 3 to come out before upgrading.

    However, I think a big mistake on Apple’s part is not offering any credit for trading in an old Apple Watch. Unlike the iPhone and iPad recycling program, Apple gives zero for an Apple Watch no matter the condition.

    I think one of the reasons Apple was able to charge such high prices for Macs and iOS devices is that they held their resale value and people could trade them in for credit as well. But Apple saying a used Apple Watch is worth zero hurts the overall high-end image they were trying to create with the Apple Watch; and that is not even counting the extra money I spent on a couple of watch bands. I think this sends the same message as cheap android phones, that these are disposable devices.

  5. Marcus I have some dings on my Apple Watch and a short crack on the crystal. I suspect that I am not alone in such cosmetic damage which is why there may not be a trade-in program. Anyway, I have learned the hard way that when doing yardwork work and such to slip an elastic terrycloth wristband on to protect the watch. I am going to pay the $80 and get the watch replaced then gift it.

  6. Paul Goodwin

    Lee. That’s why I didn’t buy one. All of my watches have gotten beaten to death, and not just from yard work, just my old body banging into things every day

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