Falling Sales Suggest Apple Watch Isn't Resonating with Consumers

Apple Watch sales are on the decline, according to a report from Slice Intelligence via Marketwatch. Based on customer receipts sampled by Slice Intelligence, Apple Watch sales have fallen from 200,000 units per day in the opening week of sales to less than 10,000 per day in late June, as shown in the chart below.

What's significant about the chart is not the fall from Apple Watch's opening week, but rather the precipitous dip in recent weeks. Whether a seasonal slowing, a failing of marketing, or worse, a failure of product design and development, that decline suggests strongly that Apple Watch isn't the right device yet.

Slice Intelligence Apple Watch Chart

Apple Watch Sales Chart by Slice Intelligence

And note that this is a log scale chart that disguises the precipitous nature of the falloff. A linear chart would have shown the decline in a way easier for non-mathy mortals to grok, but the point is that this is a serious decline in demand.

Time Out for Salient Points

Apple hasn't released sales numbers for Apple Watch—more on that later—and all numbers from third parties are subject to error. Slice's data comes from people participating in the "Slice shopping utility, which allows shoppers to organize, track and manage their online purchases." The company also has a service called "Unroll.Me" that "reduces inbox clutter."

Slice then mines participants' email for receipts and uses proprietary algorithms to measure shopping activity, including data such as device sales. Apple defendants might dismiss conclusions based on such data, but projecting total results based on a subset of data isn't new science. There is probably wiggle room on its absolute numbers, but there is just as likely real fire behind Slice's smoke.

In addition, Apple itself hasn't released sales numbers. In the past, Apple has trumpeted sales of new devices—and sometimes even preorders—when they were excellent. Apple has been mum on Apple Watch sales, though, and while circumstantial at best, that suggests the company has nothing to crow about for this device.

Another point some folks might argue is that Apple Watch had a terribly flawed rollout. It took forever to fill initial orders—far longer than any Apple rollout I can think of—and the company made the remarkable decision not to sell them directly in its fabulously successful Apple Stores in order to maximize inventory.

But that doesn't explain the chart above. Apple has experienced rollout shortages on every iPhone release, but those shortages have always resulted in strong sales. If Apple Watch was lighting customers up, if it was delighting them, demand wouldn't be falling off, it would be increasing as availability improved.

Apple Watch

I like my Apple Watch. I don't know that I love it, but I absolutely like it. I am often tempted to swap it out for my mechanical timepiece—which I have missed since buying Apple Watch—but so far I haven't done so. I want the fitness data and reminders without carrying my iPhone, and I have come to rely on the device to triage incoming notifications.

Many other people like their Apple Watch, too, but there are many who don't. I've read a mixture of positive and negative reviews of the device since it was introduced; while the negative ones seem particularly prone to personal projecting and logical flaws, the fact is that Apple Watch doesn't please everyone.

At least not yet. I remember whining that the original iPod didn't have enough storage (I was projecting), and lots of folks whined about everything under the sun with the first iPhone. And the first iMac. And the first iPad. And iTunes. And the iTunes Store.

Whining about Apple and making ad hominem attacks on Apple fans is practically a blood sport at sites The Register and various and sundry other Apple-hating sites.

But there's a difference (so far) between Apple Watch and those other products and services: demand for them grew after they were released and in the hands of real people. For Apple Watch, demand has only slackened.

And that suggests there is a problem with this device. Be it marketing or the product itself, Apple Watch isn't hitting consumers the way Apple products usually do.


Assuming Slice's data is accurate, Apple knows this about its wristtop wonder better than anyone. More importantly, all of the top executives have a lot riding on this device. It's the first one developed and released without Steve Jobs, and his successors are very keen to prove to the world that the institution Steve Jobs built can keep innovating without its visionary cofounder.

To that end, I fully expect that they are working very hard on improving Apple Watch and watch OS. Apple has proven time and again that it can adapt, and that it will turn on a dime to drop something that isn't working so it can embrace something that does.

Accordingly, I won't write Apple Watch off as a failure, not even by Apple standards. But it is a device that hasn't found its way in the world yet. I don't have the exact prescription for why this is the case, but sales estimates like these from Slice are proof that Apple Watch isn't resonating with consumers and that Apple hasn't made the case for why they should have one.