Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 25th Sep 2013 10:38 UTC

I've been thinking a bit more about those iPhone 5C/5S weekend sales figures, and while it is certainly impressive, if you compare it to the iPhone 5's first weekend sales figures, it's actually quite a step backwards for Apple. The issue here - something many sites and even Apple itself doesn't want to focus on - is that the iPhone 5C/5S is available to a lot more people than the iPhone 5 was.

The iPhone 5 was available to 720 million people at launch, and sold 5 million units. This is a penetration of 0.69%. The iPhone 5C and 5S, however, are available to 2078 million people, and sold 9 million units, which constitutes a penetration of 0.43%. So, Apple has two new models to advertise and lure consumers with instead of one, and has a huge additional market (China) to address, yet it failed to capitalise on either of these two factors.

What this shows is that while the sales figure is still pretty darn impressive, it's not nearly as groundbreaking if you put it in perspective. Looking at it this way, the so-called record breaking 9 million figure can easily be explained away by Apple almost tripling its launch weekend audience, instead of an increasing popularity of the iPhone.

The only reason I'm writing this is to illustrate how numbers are entirely arbitrary, and it's easy to make silly comparisons and claim an arbitrary victory - or, change perspective a bit and claim arbitrary defeat, as I've done here.

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by galvanash on Wed 25th Sep 2013 18:37 UTC
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I get Thom's point. What bugs me about this years release is that Apple is using a rebadged product to make it impossible to actual determine what exactly the numbers mean this time around... You see all of these "whatever, 9 million devices is impressive no matter what" posts - its simply not. Nothing is impressive "no matter what" - the details matter:

1. Apple sold 5 million iPhone 5 at launch last year. They also sold some number of the 4S, but we don't know how many because they did not disclosed that number. They also sold of out initial inventory of the 5 pretty much immediately - so they sold 5 million units of their top tier device to consumers in the launch weekend. They did not sell out of 4S inventory by anecdotal accounts, and we don't know either what the initial inventory was, nor how many 4S were sold.

2. Apple sold 9 million iPhone 5S/5C this year. We have no idea how many 5S they sold, but activations show that roughly 80% of sales were the 5S. However, just like last year, they did not sell out of the 2nd tier device - they are still available almost everywhere (even in the US where it actually sold well). It appears that all or very nearly all 5S inventory was sold out as well.

So last year Apple sold 5 million devices at launch - no one cared about 4S sales because it was already in the channel and it is not terribly interesting anyway. But if we did count the 4S, well the number would be higher by some degree...

But this year... How many 5S did they sell? No idea. Estimates range from 4.4 million to 7 million, i.e. poor to ridiculously great. Why do we not know? Because they rolled their 2nd tier device sales into their total. They did not do this last year. Some (potentially large) number of 5Cs are still sitting on shelves at carriers (just like the 4S did last year), but those are part of that glorious 9 million total... How many? Don't know, but its definitely north of zero.

Im not going to make any argument about whether this is better or worse than last year, because frankly it is a confusing mess. I have my own opinions, but honestly Im not interested in trying to convince anyone because that isn't the point of this reply.

When the 5 went on sale last year in China Apple sold 2 million of them at launch. So the combined total of 5 sales last year was 7 million. If you add in the 4S sales last year (???) you would get a number that would be comparable to the 9 million sold this year. But we don't have that number. We don't really have any real numbers, what we have is a press release that is entirely true but tells the market nothing useful...

So yeah, it really is arbitrary. 9 million units, in isolation, sounds awfully impressive. It sounds especially impressive if you compare it to 5 million from last year (which is automatically what everyone does). But the comparison is completely meaningless.

Apple may as well said they sold 15 million of them, because they changed the size of the pie and the pie pieces... I have no doubt financially they did great - but are they doing better or worse than last year? No idea...

Really. If you combine lasts years launch total (5 million), the china launch total (2 million) and the number of 4S sold at both launches (???) that total may well be more than 9 million...

Edited 2013-09-25 18:49 UTC

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