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Editorial

Wall Street seems to prefer Kremlinology over factual analysis when it comes to the Apple Watch

Another record-breaking fiscal quarter is in the books for Apple, but the company's overall success is being glossed over by Wall Street analysts and pundits who seem intent on ignoring the actual facts when it comes to Apple Watch sales.




Kremlinology appears to be alive and well on Wall Street, where — in the wake of Apple's boffo third fiscal quarter — analysts and financial journalists are dissecting the company's "Other Products" revenue in an attempt to divine how many Apple Watches were sold. Apple lumped the Watch in with the Apple TV, the iPod, and a host of low-dollar plastic adapters to thwart exactly this type of analysis, but that isn't stopping anyone.

Estimates are all over the map: Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster initially thought the category's 49-percent year-over-year jump pointed to just 1.2 million shipped Watches, then upped his guess hours later to 2.5 million. Bloomberg believes the number is 1.9 million. Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty models 2.2 million sales.

Others, like Canalys, believe the number could be as high as 4.2 million.

While Apple refused to provide any details, they did provide some context. Finance chief Luca Maestri said that the Watch outsold the iPad through its first nine weeks, and CEO Tim Cook added that Watch sales during the quarter peaked in June after an April release.
Anyone who still believes Apple sold fewer than 2 million Watches in Q3 is being willfully incorrect.
Apple sold its 2 millionth iPad somewhere around 58 days — about 8 weeks — after launch. Number 3 million came on day 80.

This means that anyone who analyzed Tuesday's results and still came back with a Watch shipments number under 2 million is being willfully incorrect. Simple extrapolation of the 2 million / 58 days pace gives us 2.15 million; if sales accelerated significantly in June, the number might go as high as 3 million.

While some may take that as a disappointment, they shouldn't. The entire smartwatch sector shipped an estimated 4.2 million units in the whole of 2014 — Apple sold around half that number in just 9 weeks, while convincing Beyonce to wear one.

As Asymco's Horace Dediu tweeted earlier this week:

"Most of the mis-representation of Apple Watch comes from the assumption that it's a new product when it's actually a new thing."