By Nicole Arce
Early signs point to the success of Apple’s latest handset. The company has just announced that it set a “new record” after selling 10 million units of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 units combined during their three-day launch weekend beginning Sept. 19.
In a press release, Apple says it has reached the 10 million mark on its first three days of sales in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Australia, and expects more units to ship when its pair of new iPhones becomes available in 20 other countries on Sept. 26. Apple is expected to make the iPhone 6 and the larger iPhone 6 Plus available in 115 countries by the end of the year.
Apple CEO Tim Cook says he “couldn’t be any happier” as sales for both smartphones “exceeded our expectations.” By comparison, the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c sold 9 million units on their first sale weekend in 2012. Apple did not provide a breakdown of the sales figures for both models, but with the lukewarm response to the lower-end iPhone 5c, it is likely that majority of the 9 million units accounted for iPhone 5s sales.
The 10 million sales figure for Apple’s newest iPhones sits on the upper end of analyst forecasts of 6.5 million to the “low tens” of millions. Walter Piecyk, managing director at industry firm BTIG Research, believes it is “impressive” for Apple to have garnered 10 million sales on its first three days of release even though the iPhones were not yet available in China, where Apple has hundreds of millions of potential customers.
“Even without China, Apple was able to move $6.5 billion of product in three days which would be impressive for any industry,” says Piecyk.
Apple has yet to make the new iPhones available in China as it still has to go through the last of three regulatory hoops that will permit the iPhone maker to sell its latest devices in the country. The absence of the new iPhones in China has, in fact, opened new channels for smugglers and scalpers to sell the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in the Chinese black market for two times their retail price in the United States. On Sept. 21, authorities in Hong Kong thwarted an attempt to illegally export $387,000 worth of high-end electronic goods, including 138 units of the new iPhones.
Apple has not made it clear which among the two phones were more popular, but the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus appears to have been sold out already while the iPhone 6 remains available. Larger-screen smartphones have risen in demand in the last few years, and Apple has taken quite a while to satisfy that demand.
“That’s hard to tell if it’s because Apple has a lot of supply out there, or it’s because there’s less demand for it compared to the iPhone 6 Plus,” says senior research analyst Maynard Um at Wells Fargo.
Some analysts, however, such as Piecyk and Gene Munster of Piper Jaffrays are wary of using first-weekend sales as a measure of consumer demand, especially since the iPhones are already very popular in many countries. The figure, they say, could be more of a benchmark for Apple’s supply.
“The first weekend iPhone sales number continues to be more about how much Apple can supply than what the demand is in the market,” says Piecyk.
Cook says that “while our team managed the manufacturing ramp better than ever before, we could have sold many more iPhones with greater supply.” He also says that the company is “working hard to fill orders as quickly as possible.