Apple taps new vein with iPhone SE, initial sales estimate suggests

AppleInsider may earn an affiliate commission on purchases made through links on our site.

Apple's new iPhone SE isn't expected to break any sales records, but fresh data suggests the diminutive handset might have a hand in driving iPhone sales growth beyond early adopters and brand loyalists.

According to early data from research firm Slice Intelligence, first weekend iPhone SE online sales amounted to 6 percent of what Apple saw with the iPhone 6s launch in 2015, and only 3 percent of the iPhone 6 a year prior.

However, statistics show a large chunk of SE buyers skipped the recent big-screen iPhone upgrades, meaning the new model is attracting users keen on replacing their aging 4-inch iPhone 5s , as AppleInsider predicted after taking a spending some hands-on time with the device last week. Today's report notes only 35 percent of initial iPhone SE buyers bought an iPhone online in the past two years.

Perhaps more importantly, iPhone SE is stealing away Android users at a faster clip than Apple's most recent segment offerings. Specifically, some 16 percent of iPhone SE buyers were Android converts, a figure that compares favorably to a 10 percent share seen during last year's iPhone 6s launch. While sales trend data has yet to be collected and analyzed, it is speculated that SE's low price point is helping to drive potential smartphone buyers toward iOS.

Slice also points out that consumers interested in the new SE are older and less educated than the typical iPhone audience. More than one fifth of customers who purchased SE are aged 45 to 54 years old, compared to an 18 percent average for all iPhone buyers. In particular, 34- to 44-year-olds showed less interest in the 4-inch device than prior flagship models. Further, male buyers accounted for 77 percent of SE's online launch sales, compared to 69 percent overall.

The research firm draws samples from a panel of over 4 million online shoppers.

Apple has yet to release official first weekend iPhone SE sales figures, but a report on Monday claims preorders have surpassed 3.4 million units in China alone. If accurate, the performance bodes well for Apple's updated iPhone model, as the device is believed to address — or generate — demand in emerging markets.